More Democrats oppose lifting Cuban travel ban
BY LESLEY CLARK
More than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting current Cuba policy, which embargo-supporters say effectively means that a bill to open Cuba to tourists is dead.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would prevent President Barack Obama from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. residents.
But now 53 Democrats in the House have told Pelosi that they oppose lifting the ban, blunting the momentum that proponents of lifting the travel ban have had under a Democratic president and Democratic-led Congress.
``Any legislation that would seek to ease or lift sanctions . . . would send a devastating message to Cuba's opposition movement and legitimize an ailing dictatorship,'' states the letter signed by Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hastings and 50 others.
The letter notes that President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions for those with family on the island, but has said he backs further sanctions against the island.
``It is our strong belief that any effort to upend the president's agenda would undermine the goal that he shares with so many House Democrats -- fostering respect for justice and freedom in Cuba,'' the letter states.
Wasserman Schultz, who helped gather signatures, said the letter is aimed at showing that a number of Democrats oppose easing sanctions against Cuba, a stance that is traditionally associated with Republicans.
``We felt it was important to show that when push comes to shove, the votes aren't there,'' Wasserman Schultz said. ``The number of Republicans opposed combined with these Democrats would seem to spell that it would not be successful.''
Proponents of lifting the travel ban, however, said they've got 180 sponsors to repeal the decades-old ban and said the letter doesn't change the outlook for getting the bill passed.
``We're continuing to gather support,'' said Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., who has sponsored one of several bills that seek to allow Americans to travel to Cuba.
With 218 votes needed for passage and 258 Democrats in the House, pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone said the numbers just are not there.
``Democrats alone can not pass any legislation to unconditionally lift the ban,'' he said.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, one Republican who has championed easing sanctions, said the letter suggests backers of the embargo are getting nervous.