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Cuba travel bill buried in political agenda | Reuters


Tue Feb 9, 2010 1:05am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan drive in Congress to end a Cold War-era travel ban on Cuba was buried during the healthcare reform debate but its supporters hope to dig it out this year.

Sponsors of two bills allowing Americans to travel freely to Cuba, introduced last year in the Senate and the House of Representatives, say a flood of dollars from the pro-embargo Cuban-American lobby might also have played a part.

"Support has not waned but it's clear that the debate over healthcare has consumed the first year of the (Obama) administration and has had a similar impact in terms of congressional action," Representative Bill Delahunt, a Democrat and one of the authors of the bill, told Reuters.

Co-sponsor Jeff Flake, a Republican representative, said the votes were there to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act this year but the Democratic majority in the House was divided over whether to take it to the floor for a vote.

"This is not an issue that is at the top of their agenda or anywhere close and it's also an issue that splits part of their caucus," he said. "I still think it could happen this year."

The bill has 178 backers in the House, 40 votes short of the 218 needed but still a "big number," Flake said.