The US Congress will most likely lift a five-decades-old embargo on Cuba before the end of 2010, a senior Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday.
House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel told reporters he believed the current Congress, which goes through next year, would lift the trade ban.
Rangel, a long time critic of the embargo and head of the House’s powerful tax and trade policy committee, made the comment in response to a question.
He was at an event with other lawmakers to push for action on legislation to ease US restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba. Asked how likely it was the overall embargo would come off in this Congress, Rangel said: “Most likely.”
However, action on that would take a back seat to work in the near term on reforming the US health care system, said Rangel, a New York Democrat.
Last month, President Barack Obama took a step towards improved relations with the communist-run island by easing restrictions on family travel to Cuba.
Obama then urged Cuba to release political prisoners and improve human rights to get more concessions from Washington.
Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, both have expressed a willingness to talk with the United States.
But they publicly insist that Cuba does not have to make concessions to move the diplomatic process forward.
Representative William Delahunt told reporters he did not expect a vote until November on his bill to allow all US citizens to travel freely to Cuba.
“We’re building up support. We have 138 co-sponsors,” Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, said.
But Democratic congressional leaders had to decide when and how to proceed with Cuba legislation, he said. Meanwhile embargo supporters are “spending huge amounts of money” to defeat the travel bill, Delahunt said.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters Tuesday Obama was waiting for Cuba to make the next move.
“What the president has said now it’s time for Cuba to demonstrate its willingness to take some steps and show some progress and change in philosophy as it relates to human rights and perhaps releasing some of the prisoners,” Kirk said.