Majority of Senate supports Cuban tourism bill

The Hill

A majority of lawmakers in the Senate are backing a bill that would ease travel restrictions with Cuba, even as President Trump weighs reversing an opening with the island nation.

The legislation — reintroduced by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday — has a total of 55 co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans. When the bill was introduced in the last session of Congress, it had eight original co-sponsors.

The measure would allow Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes, which is currently prohibited. 

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, called the swell of support “shocking.”

"This level of bipartisanship is unparalleled in today's polarized political environment," Williams said. "Removing burdensome regulations on travel to Cuba will allow Americans to exercise their rights to travel freely, create U.S. jobs and support Cuba's growing private sector." 

The renewed Cuban travel push comes as the Trump administration undergoes a "full review" of U.S. policy toward Cuba that may result in significant changes.

Former President Barack Obama announced a historic agreement to normalize relations with the island nation, including resuming scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba. Commercial flights to Cuba started last summer.

But American tourism on the island is still prohibited and can only be approved by Congress.

Travel is only permitted for family visits, official U.S. government business, foreign governments, journalistic activity, professional research, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, humanitarian projects and certain authorized export transactions.

There are growing expectations that Trump may take a harder line with the country, however. He previously threatened to reverse Obama's decision to open diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba if the communist government doesn't adopt changes.

"I'm 1,000 percent sure that the president is going to deliver on his commitment," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), according to the National Journal. "I have no doubt that you're going to see in short order a different policy.