WASHINGTON—They didn't waste any time.
While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba.
U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4 would allow American citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba for the first time since 1963. The bill by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and eight co-sponsors would also lift limits on travel by Cuban exiles living in the United States. The president would not be able to regulate travel to the island unless an armed conflict or armed danger arises.
"As an American, I think I have the right to go wherever I want to without anyone stopping me," said Bay of Pigs veteran Miguel Reyes, 72, founder of the Cuban American Club in West Palm Beach.
Reyes, whose views don't necessarily reflect the club's, said he doesn't think the bill matters much at this point. He has no plans to travel to Cuba, but doesn't care if other people do.
That's not the case for Jose Lopez, president of the Broward County Latin Chamber of Commerce and a staunch supporter of the trade embargo.
"It's a betrayal and it's not going to resolve anything," said Lopez, who left Cuba in 1961.
Tourism dollars spent in Cuba will inject more oxygen into the dying Castro regime, he said. Lopez also thinks Cuban exiles who want to return to the island whenever they please are abusing their refugee privilege.
Many expect President Barack Obama to back a change in the policy. As a candidate for the presidency, Obama spoke in favor of reducing restrictions on remittances and travel to the island.
Co-sponsors to the bill include representatives Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Ron Paul, R-Tex.