Castor and a Republican file long-shot — though appreciated — bill to lift Cuba embargo

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While the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has undergone a sea change since last December, there is, of course, only so much that President Obama can do to modernize the way the two countries interact.

While last week the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana, thereby restoring diplomatic ties, and travel has gotten easier in recent months, there's that whole economic embargo thing that's still hanging around.

And, aside from politely asking, there's nothing the president can do about that.

That's why, along with a Republican colleague, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor, a Democrat, has filed a bill to do away with the embargo and further ease travel restrictions, though it does have a provision "prohibiting taxpayer funds to be used on promotion or development of these new markets."

“The United States and Cuba have taken historic actions this year to set our countries on a more productive path forward for citizens of both nations and turn the page on the outdated 50-year policy of isolation,” Castor said in a media release.

It makes sense that Castor is the one filing the bill, given her advocacy for doing away with 50-year-old policies that seem more vestigial than anything else, especially to those not alive during the early years of the Cold War.

The bill's Republican cosponsor is Congressman Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican.

“The American people overwhelmingly support lifting the Cuba embargo," Emmer said in a statement. "Along with the Cuban people, Americans are ready for a fresh start and new opportunities for increasing trade, advancing the cause of human rights and ushering in direly needed political reforms."

He added that the bill would better the U.S.'s standing in the region and give the U.S. "a seat at the table and increased leverage as we prepare for the vast political transformations occurring in Cuba."

But there's a good chance Emmer is in the minority, especially among those in his party, many of whom have said they'd block repairing ties with Cuba, including lifting the embargo.

Castor urged her colleagues to reconsider.

“This important step forward will advance human rights and lift the fortunes of families and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Florida straits," she said. "Lifting the embargo and reestablishing historic trade ties with Cuba will be a boost to our port and local small businesses in Florida. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this policy of engagement that will not only provide an economic boost here at home, but will also help the Cuban economy and its people flourish.”

Also weighing in on the potential benefits of lifting the embargo is Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bob Rohrlack, who issued a statement alongside those of Castor and Emmer.

“The Chamber has been diligently working to position Tampa Bay as the gateway for trade with Cuba and Congresswoman Castor has been a great champion of our efforts," he said in his statement. "Our local business community is excited about the potential economic impact of opening trade, as evidenced by our three successful educational trips to Cuba. When the time is right, we will be ready to engage with the people of Cuba to increase prosperity for all.”

For more on the relationship between Tampa and Cuba, check out our Cuba Issue.

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