WASHINGTON – A bill introduced Thursday by two senators would effectively end the nearly 53-year-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.
The Cuba Trade Act of 2015, presented by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Angus King (I-Maine), would give private firms, including financial institutions, the right to conduct business with the Communist-ruled island.
The legislation would preserve existing restrictions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for trade promotion or market development in Cuba.
Taxpayers would also have no liability for losses on private lending to Cuba.
“Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” Moran said in a statement.
“By lifting the embargo and opening up the market for U.S. agricultural commodities, we will not only boost the U.S. economy but also help bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government,” the Kansas Republican said.
He suggested that higher living standards would empower Cubans to exert pressure on their government for greater personal and political freedom.
“For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo,” Sen. King said. “Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books.”
The proposal comes amid a thaw between Washington and Havana, which have been holding high-level talks on restoring bilateral diplomatic relations.
President Barack Obama has also eased restrictions on Americans’ travel to Cuba, but because the economic embargo is embodied in legislation, ending it will require action by Congress.
While the GOP as a party has traditionally advocated a tough line toward Havana, some Republican lawmakers, especially from farming states such as Kansas, tout the opportunities the Cuban market offers U.S. companies.
Analysts do not give the Moran-King proposal much chance of passing the Senate this year.