Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) with nine other Republican and Democratic Senators introduced legislation on Thursday that allows all Americans to make normal professional and tourist visits to Cuba. If the bill becomes law, any US travel agent will be able to book transportation, accommodations and other necessary services for visits to Cuba. S 721 also permits the use of US credit cards and other forms of in-country payment.
Virtually identical legislation (HR 654), was introduced in the House of Representatives in January by Charles Rangel (D-NY), the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). It has obtained 76 Republican and Democratic cosponsors to date.
A statement of support for both bills has been endorsed by leaders of religious, humanitarian, academic, Cuban American and people-to-people exchange organizations. Many such groups had been able to conduct programs in Cuba during the Clinton Administration and in the first term of President Bush. The statement can be seen and signed on line at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Cubatravelbill/
The statement has also gained the backing of Vicki Huddleston and Wayne Smith, two former heads of the US Interests Section in Havana and Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Strong opposition is expected when the bills reach the floor of the House and Senate later this year but passage is possible. A Presidential veto threat is also anticipated.
If the bills become law, the potential market of the Cuba destination is significant for US travel agents, tour operators, cruise lines and related businesses. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll in February found that 18 percent of Americans would be “very interested” and 22 percent “somewhat interested” in going to Cuba on vacation.
In his floor speech introducing the bill, Senator Enzi said, “It is time for a different policy – one that goes further than embargoes and replaces a restrictive and confusing travel policy with a new one that will more effectively help us to achieve our goal of sharing democratic ideas with the people of Cuba .”
He cited the advice of his father, “if you keep on doing what you have always been doing, you are going to wind up getting what you already got”. http://enzi.senate.gov/public/