U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) lamented the defeat on Tuesday of an amendment that he and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) had co-sponsored that would have reversed travel restrictions on U.S. citizens to Cuba.
The amendment in question was added to the funding bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its main purpose was to eliminate restrictions on U.S. travel, and it would allow flights and ships to enter the country from the U.S. The amendment was voted down 247-176.
Sanford said Cuba is the only country that U.S. citizens are not allowed to travel to or visit, under federal law. The State Department has issued several travel warnings, and in some cases, such as North Korea, no U.S. Embassy exists, and citizens wishing to travel to North Korea must do so through the Swedish or Chinese Embassy.
Sanford said the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba is a limitation of what he calls the "constitutional right to freely travel." The restrictions have been in place since the Cuban Revolution took place, with U.S. embassy activity suspended in 1961.
In an International Business Times article, Lee said the restrictions on Cuba were anti-business and detrimental to diplomacy. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said travel to and expenditures made in the country directly support institutions and individuals that oppress the Cuban people.