U.S. House sponsor on Cuba travel bill: We have the votes
U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass, says he believes supporters of a measure to ease the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba have the votes to pass the bill, at least in the House.
Delahunt made his comments at a press conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Cuban ex-pats and some human rights activists to drum up support for the bill, which would allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.
An identical bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate, where supporters say they, too, feel good about its chances, but opponents, including Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., aren't so sure. Opponents say the Castro government should make strides towards providing basic human rights and freedoms before it is rewarded with U.S. commerce.
More than 120 Democrats and Republicans have signed on as cosponsors to the House version, and Delahunt, the lead sponsor, said he believes it will come for a vote this year.
"I don't want to give you a time frame, but I'm certain it will come to the floor, ,and we will have a vote, and I believe we will have a significant number of cosponsors," he said.
He and other lawmakers pushing a more open relationship with Cuba say they expect President Barack Obama to issue an executive order dissolving many of the restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island and send them money.
Meanwhile, a handful of Democratic House members said today they would taking a state-sponsored fact-finding trip to Cuba tomorrow.
"The election of President Barack Obama presents a great new opportunity to rethink U.S. foreign policy in many regions of the world," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is leading the delegation. "America's harsh approach toward our nearest Caribbean neighbor divides families, closes an important market to struggling U.S. farmers, harasses our allies and is based on antiquated Cold War era thinking."