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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Rubio unveils bill to halt Cuba flights

Rubio unveils bill to halt Cuba flights
By Melanie Zanona - 09/07/16 03:42 PM EDT

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dropped legislation on Wednesday that would
halt commercial U.S. flights to Cuba until a thorough security review is
conducted at all of the island nation's 10 airports.

The measure, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.),
comes a week after commercial air service resumed between the U.S. and
Cuba for the first time in 50 years.

The commercial flights are a cornerstone of President's Obama efforts to
normalize relations with the former Cold War rival.

Rubio's bill would pause those flights until the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) completes an assessment of Cuba's airport security
measures and secures an agreement that allows TSA agents to inspect the
country's airports regularly.

"It's extremely concerning that ‎airlines operating in Cuba are not
allowed to hire their own workers, and airport staff are employees of
the Cuban government," Rubio said in a statement. "This increases the
likelihood that someone on the inside seeking to harm the United States
could gain access to sensitive flight data and controls."

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security
subcommittee on Transportation Security, introduced companion
legislation earlier this year.

Bill sponsors want to know whether the island has adequate body
scanners, explosive detection systems, technology for detecting fake
passports and a strong employee vetting process.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the Homeland Security
Committee, told The Hill last week that he plans to move the measure
through his committee once lawmakers return from the August recess.

"Despite continued concerns about the safety and security of Cuba's
airports, the Administration rushed resuming regularly scheduled
commercial flights to Cuba — again putting security concerns far behind
the President's legacy building effort," McCaul said in a statement.

But the bill would face an uphill battle in the Senate and almost
certain veto at the White House, as the issue has long divided Congress.
Supporters of Cuban air travel brush off security concerns, arguing that
charter services have been offering flights between the U.S. and Cuba
for years without terrorism incidents and pointing out that Cuban
airports already must comply with a set of international standards.

Critics worry that Cuban airports don't live up to U.S. standards, and
say that resuming travel to Cuba would enrich the Castro government
despite its history of human rights abuse.

"I have opposed commercial flight service to Cuba because it will only
empower and enrich the regime, not the Cuban people," Rubio said.

Source: Rubio unveils bill to halt Cuba flights | TheHill -
http://origin-nyi.thehill.com/policy/transportation/294847-rubio-backs-bill-to-halt-cuba-flights
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