[JURIST] Eight Republican and Democratic Senators on Thursday introduced legislation [press release] that would end US travel restrictions on Cuba. The legislation, which was introduced by Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake [official website], would also end financial transaction restrictions on travel between the two countries. The Senators who have backed the legislation include Democrats Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse; and Republicans John Boozman, Michael Enzi, Jeff Flake and Jerry Moran [official websites]. It is expected that Representatives Jim McGovern and Mark Sanford will introduce companion legislation in the US House of Representatives [official websites] next week.
This legislation comes on the heels of US President Barack Obama’s announcement last year of policy changes [JURIST report] to the US – Cuba relationship. Obama directed Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] to reestablish diplomatic relations and to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. He also announced “steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.” Upon taking office, Obama pledged to reexamine US policy toward Cuba. In 2011 he ordered the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security [official websites] to take steps to ease restrictions on travel and remittances [JURIST report] to Cuba. The regulations built off of those issued in April 2009 [JURIST report], which eased travel and remittances restrictions for Cuban Americans and their families in Cuba only.