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Obama signs new spending bill, eases sanctions on Cuba

By Xinhua,

Washington : US President Barack Obama has signed into law a $410-billion spending bill that will also ease some of Washington’s economic sanctions on Cuba.

Obama, who signed the bill Wednesday, however said it was “imperfect” as the Congressmen had added pet projects to the $410 billion package, which is aimed at funding government spending until September 2010.

“I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it’s necessary for the ongoing functions of government,” Obama said at the White House. “But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change.”

The legislation, which was earlier approved by the Senate after being cleared by the House of Representatives last month, also allows Cuban-Americans to travel to the island once a year and send money to relatives there. Curbs on sending medicines and food have also been eased.

The law overturns rules imposed by the Bush administration which limited travel to Cuba to just two weeks every three years, and confined visits to immediate family members.

“Let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business, and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability,” Obama said.

The massive spending bill, which included an estimated $7.7 billion in earmarks, has prompted sharp critics to question Obama’s pledge to end wasteful spending.

During the presidential campaign, Obama and Republican nominee John McCain both said they oppose earmarks.

Obama said Wednesday that he believed future legislation could include reforms to make the budget process more transparent and trustworthy and rein in the use of earmarks.

“I believe as we move forward, we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks,” he said. “These principles begin with a simple concept: earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose.”