A measure that would end the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba was dropped on Wednesday by its chief House of Representatives sponsor, who said he could not get “meaningful debate” in an election year on legislation that has attracted bipartisan support for several years.
The House instead will debate next week a narrower measure, focusing on new restrictions the Bush administration recently imposed. Cuba policy is extremely sensitive in Florida, a key swing state in the presidential race where Cuban-Americans form a crucial voting bloc.
Both the House and the Senate in the past have backed altering the trade embargo to allow legal travel to Cuba. But the measure always has been stripped from final versions of bills and never been signed into law.
Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, withdrew his measure, saying “with elections so close and politics so raw, this debate would not receive the thoughtful deliberation it deserves.”
The amendment, which was passed in the House for the last four years, was part of a broader Transportation and Treasury Department spending bill. A Senate panel has included language lifting the Cuba travel ban on its version of the bill.
Flake called the travel ban a Cold War anachronism that has clearly not toppled Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959. He said that limiting U.S. citizens’ own freedom to travel was not the answer.
“Unfortunately, neither party can see past Florida when trying to decide what to do about Cuba,” he said.
The Bush administration earlier this year imposed additional restrictions, limiting how often Cuban-Americans can visit relatives on the island or what supplies they can send them. Those moves have angered some Cuban-Americans, a bloc that overwhelmingly voted Republican in 2000.
Florida Democrat Rep. Jim Davis plans to introduce an amendment next week, with Flake’s support, that will roll back the new restrictions that allow Cubans residing in the United States to visit Cuba only once every three years.
Another Davis resolution was approved in July. It sought to block new restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ ability to mail supplies such as clothing or soap to relatives still in Cuba.