Maybe there is hope yet .
(AP) -- Defying a threatened presidential veto, the Senate joined the House Thursday in moving to end four-decade-old restrictions on travel to Cuba
"It is not constructive at all to try to slap around Fidel Castro by imposing limits on the American people's right to travel," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota.
The Senate voted 59-36 to bar the use of government money
to enforce current
travel restrictions. Last month a nearly identical measure passed the House, setting up a showdown with the administration, which says President Bush will veto a $90 billion Transportation and Treasury Department bill if contains the Cuba
"The administration believes that it is essential to maintain sanctions and travel restrictions to deny economic resources to the brutal Castro regime," the White House said in a statement.
The Treasury Department estimates that about 160,000 Americans, half of them Cuban-Americans visiting family
members, traveled to Cuba legally last year. Humanitarian and educational groups, journalists and diplomats are also allowed visits, but thousands of other Americans visit illegally, by way of third countries, risking thousands of dollars in fines and imprisonment.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who co-sponsored the amendment to the spending bill with Dorgan, said the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control, a key office in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, shouldn't be devoting resources to American tourists going to Cuba.
"Ten percent of the OFAC budget
is used to track down little old grandmas from the West Coast
who through a Canadian travel agency chose to bike in Cuba," he said.
Opponents warned that the provision sent a wrong signal at a time when the Castro regime has escalated its crackdown on dissidents. "Why should we now open up travel to Cuba to give additional cash flow to the Castro regime?" asked Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.