It took only a month for backers and critics of President Barack Obama's decision to ease restrictions on U.S. citizens' trips to Cuba to come out of their corners and start swinging.
Cuban-American Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., announced this week they had submitted an amendment that would block any new flights from U.S. airports to Cuba that might be allowed by the Obama decision.
And one of the largest U.S. tourism companies, AmericanTours International LLC (ATI), launched a Web page on Monday offering tours for those newly qualified to visit Cuba - under the headline, "Connect Understand Become Amigos!''
Obama set the stage for the fight over travel to Cuba last monthwhen the White House announced it would make it easier for U.S. educational, religious, cultural and humanitarian groups to visit the island.
Part of the changes involved allowing virtually any U.S. airport with top-ranked security capabilities to host charter flights to and from Cuba. Currently, only Miami, Los Angeles and New York are allowed to host the flights.
The Rubio-Menendez amendment, attached to a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), would block any new U.S. flights to countries on the U.S. list of supporters of international terrorism. Currently, those countries are Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan.
"Increasing direct commercial or charter aircraft flights with state sponsors of terrorism is totally irresponsible," Rubio, a first-term Florida Republican, said in announcing the amendment. Menendez co-sponsored it.
"There is no reason for the United States to help enrich state sponsors of terrorism," Rubio added.
Airports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Key West and Las Vegas were among those that had been pushing to be allowed to handle some of the U.S.-Cuba charter flights. More than 40 Cuba flights a week now leave from Miami International Airport.
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