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US bill would overturn CDC's cruise order, start sailings by July 4

PHOTO: ANNE KALOSH CRUISE_US_Capitol.jpg
Congress has oversight for the CDC, which is responsible for implementing public health legislation
A bill to revoke the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's conditional sailing order and resume cruising from the US by July 4 was introduced Tuesday by three Republican members of Congress.

The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (CRUISE) Act is sponsored by  Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. US Rep. María Elvira Salazar of Florida, also a Republican, is expected to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Establishes interagency working group

The bill requires the CDC to provide COVID-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines to resume safe operations. It also establishes an interagency working group to develop recommendations to facilitate the resumption of cruising no later than July 4.

Working group's composition

The working group would be chaired by the secretary of health and human services (or designee) and the secretaries (or designees) of transportation, homeland security and commerce and industry stakeholders appointed by the secretary of health and human services.

The bill revokes the Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew.

And it ensures that CDC and its parent, the Department of Health and Human Services, '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.'

'It's time to get the cruise lines open safely'

'Florida is a tourism state with thousands of jobs relying on the success of our ports, cruise lines and maritime industries. While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC,' Scott said.

'The CDC's refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely. Our bill, the CRUISE Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely.'

'Foot-dragging, mixed messages and unresponsiveness'

'... Potential cruises this summer, when the President said the country will be able to return to normal with more and more Americans getting vaccinated, have been left adrift,' Sullivan said. 'The foot-dragging, mixed messages and unresponsiveness of CDC leaders is totally unacceptable and ultimately endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the hundreds of small businesses across Alaska that rely on the tourism sector.'

He added that today's bill would 'accomplish what letters, meetings and repeated phone calls have not — directing the CDC to finally codify timely guidance and a plan for cruise ships to safely and responsibly welcome passengers again this summer.'

Congress has oversight for the CDC, which is responsible for implementing public health legislation.

In March, Scott wrote to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID response coordinator, urging the Biden administration to immediately issue clear guidance for cruising's resumption. The senator said CDC still has not responded to his letter or provided the cruise industry a timeline to begin sailing.

Prior bill went nowhere

Last year Scott and Rubio introduced the Set Sail Safely Act to establish a maritime task force, in coordination with a private sector advisory committee, to address the health, safety, security and logistical changes needed to allow for cruise lines and ports to resume operations.

That went nowhere.

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