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Momentum grows for lifting of Cuba travel ban

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Efforts in the U.S. to end the 46-year-old travel ban to Cuba got a boost last week during a hearing in Washington on whether to lift the ban.
The hearing by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Freedom to Travel Cuba Act (H.R. 874), introduced by Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) on Feb. 4, marked the first time since Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 that a full committee has delved into the hotly contested issue of lifting the restrictions.

Proponents claim the bill has 179 co-sponsors in the House. The Senate version, introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) on Feb. 12 as S. 428, claims 33 co-sponsors.

Opponents of lifting the ban suggest the votes are not there to pass the legislation.

The U.S.-Cuba Democracy Public Action Committee, a group that champions the U.S. embargo, maintains that 53 House Democrats still support current U.S. policy toward Cuba, including keeping the trade embargo and travel restrictions in place.

The House hearing on Nov. 19 included testimony by Orbitz Worldwide, which launched its Open Cuba campaign in May.

Orbitz has gathered more than 100,000 signatures on its petition to end the ban, "sending a powerful message to U.S. lawmakers and to President Obama that the time to act is now," according to Orbitz.

The testimony included endorsements from industry partners and associations, which support Orbitz's efforts to open travel to Cuba, including the National Foreign Trade Council, National Tour Association, the U.S. Tour Operators Association, the Adventure Travel Trade Association and the Interactive Travel Services Association.

Several Cuban American groups signed on as well, including the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights and the Cuban American Alliance Education Fund.

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