CRUISE Act to Overrule CDC is Blocked in the Senate

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The cruise industry has reached another roadblock with the new Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act that was first announced on April 13, 2021. The bill has now been blocked in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray.

Senate Blocks the CRUISE Act

The new bill introduced by U.S. senators Dan Sullivan, Rick Scott, and Marco Rubio had its day in the Senate, and unfortunately for the cruise industry, it has not been passed. Sen. Patty Murray objected to the bill after Senators Scott and Sullivan held a colloquy to discuss the impact on their states and across the U.S. due to cruises being shut down for more than a year.

Also Read: Why the CDC’s Silence Puts the U.S. Cruise Industry on Edge

Sen. Dan Sullivan
Sen. Dan Sullivan

Sen. Sullivan talked about the impact on Alaska and that tourism there is so important. He mentioned the state being able to offer a vaccine and enjoy a great vacation at the same time, which then lead to the difficulties the senator and his team are having with the CDC. He said:

They’re dithering. I have been meeting — my staff has been meeting with them  certainly weekly. I have met twice with the CDC director. And all we get is foot-dragging. All we get is excuses. All we get is guidance that’s muddled, confusing, and simply unworkable. And, here’s the thing. In my state, communities are dying, and no one seems to care. The CDC, the bureaucrats there, don’t seem to give a damn about what Americans are suffering through right now. Literally. I don’t know how many times we can be on calls with them where we get no response. And when people lose jobs and lose businesses that is a health impact too. 

Senator Scott discussed the impact on Florida which is an important state for the cruise industry especially with major ports such as PortMiami and Port Canaveral. He made it clear that more than 300,000 American jobs had been lost due to the cruise shutdown not just in Florida. He also touched on how the CDC is treating the industry:

The CDC is treating the cruise sector unfairly while other industries are open for business. There is no reason why America’s cruise industry and the thousands of jobs that rely on its success should continue to suffer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back cruising safely. I yield back to my colleague from Alaska.

Sen. Patty Murray
Sen. Patty Murray

There was an objection from Sen. Murray of Washington State, and she mentioned that cruise ships require a specific focus and protocols in place following the issues cruise ships had at the start of the pandemic. Here’s what she said:

Just last year, we saw thousands of passengers stranded on cruise ships, people put in quarantine, or refused entry to ports as borders closed. Over 31 million Americans have contracted COVID and 560,000 have died from this disease. Cruise ships require specific focus and protocols in place to prevent future outbreaks. While I am as eager as anyone else to see a return to travel, we cannot cut corners. Doing so risks lives and will only further delay returning to normal, hurting our economy more in the long run. 

We must trust the science and we must allow the CDC to continue its work to help us return to what we love as safely as possible. So I will continue to work with CDC and the administration as they develop the next phase of their cruising guidance, but for now, I object.

Her objection was hugely disappointing to senators Scott and Sullivan, who worked hard on the CRUISE Act getting passed. Cruise Hive readers can watch the full video from the senate below:

What is the CRUISE Act?

The bill which is fully named the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements Act is aimed at allowing cruise ships to resume operations safely with strict health measures in place. It was hoped that with the return of cruising, the impact on the loss of jobs and local business would be helped, but now that has hit a major setback. The CRUISE Act covers the following:

  • Requires the CDC to issue recommendations for how to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 to passengers and crew onboard cruise ships.
  • Establishes an interagency “Working Group” that will develop recommendations to facilitate the resumption of passenger cruise ship operations in the United States. The recommendations will facilitate the resumption of passenger cruise ship operations in the U.S. no later than July 4, 2021.
  • Requires the CDC, no later than July 4, 2021, to revoke the order entitled “Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew.”
  • Ensures that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC retain all appropriate authorities to make and enforce regulations necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases on any individual cruise ship.

The legislation would put a stop and overrule the Conditional Sailing Order that the CDC implemented at the end of October 2020. Since then, the agency had mainly remained silent apart from when it released Phase 2A technical instructions.

This only caused more frustrations from the states that heavily rely on cruises and the cruise lines themselves. By overruling the CDC, it would clear the route for cruises and ensure passengers and crew can remain safe.

Against and For Cruising

Not everyone is willing to allow the cruise industry to resume operations, and two other lawmakers have urged the restrictions on cruises to continue. Congresswoman Doris Matsui of Sacramento and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal for Connecticut sent a letter to the CDC urging to remain on course with its Conditional Sailing Order and not to allow cruises to resume any earlier. They also asked that cruises are halted if further outbreaks occur.

It comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state would be filing a lawsuit to allow cruises to resume Immediately and many calls from ports and cruise lines to allow cruising by July 4, 2021. More recently, Alaska also joined the lawsuit to get cruises going again.

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