Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s attempt to block the Obama administration’s expansion of travel to Cuba has been halted, but he has vowed to continue his opposition.
Along with New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, Rubio has drafter an amendment to try to stop any new flights from leaving from U.S. airports to Cuba after last month’s White House announcement to ease travel restrictions to the island.
The two tried to attach their amendment to a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, but after staunch criticism from the Tampa Area Chamber of Commerce, which backs the Tampa International Airport’s bid to host some of the flights, it was shot down.
“Increasing direct commercial or charter aircraft flights with state sponsors of terrorism is totally irresponsible,” said Rubio when fist announcing the amendment.
But the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said, “If we continue to isolate the Cuban people, we simply play into the hands of the Cuban regime.” He added that under the White House’s newest regulations, the additional travel to the communist island would be “purposeful, regulated travel, where individuals and organizations will have to get licenses in order to go.”
“The intent of these changes is because the president feels that we need to move forward much more effectively to engage directly with the Cuban people to encourage their ability to determine their own future.”