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Scott, Rubio file bill to overturn CDC cruise rules, resume sailing soon

The bill seeks a new set of rules to clear a path cruises for a return to the seas.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, at podium, speaks April 9 alongside port workers and elected officials asking for the CDC and the federal government to allow the return of cruising, during a news conference in front of Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Horizon cruise ship docked at PortMiami in Miami. [Wilfredo Lee | Associated Press]
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, at podium, speaks April 9 alongside port workers and elected officials asking for the CDC and the federal government to allow the return of cruising, during a news conference in front of Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Horizon cruise ship docked at PortMiami in Miami. [Wilfredo Lee | Associated Press] [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published Apr. 13
Updated Apr. 13

Florida’s U.S. Senators introduced legislation Tuesday to override the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s existing framework cruise ships must follow to resume operations and replace current regulations with a new set of recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 aboard ships.

Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, along with Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, all Republicans, introduced the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements, or CRUISE Act, the latest way Florida politicians are criticizing the Centers for Disease Control for the agency’s rules cruise lines must follow before they can resume operations.

“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 in a statement. “The CDC’s refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong, and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely.”

The Cruise Act would require the CDC to revoke their existing framework by July 4, which requires cruise companies to secure agreements with ports and local health authorities in the cities they plan to visit. Once the agreements are in place, cruise companies can begin test voyages before welcoming passengers on board.

Instead, the bill would establish an inter-agency “working group” comprised the secretaries of Transportation, Homeland Security and Commerce along with industry representatives to develop a new set of Centers for Disease Control cruise ship recommendations by July 4, the latest possible date that cruises could resume operations.

“Floridians and many other Americans who are employed by ports, cruise operators, or work in hospitality jobs near cruise terminals face an uncertain future because of the CDC’s unresponsiveness to requests for guidance by stakeholder groups,” Rubio said in a statement. “I am proud to join Senators Sullivan and Scott in introducing legislation that would require the CDC to provide guidance to safely resume operations this summer, and allow Florida’s economy to recover even further.”

The new bill comes days after Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in an attempt to resume cruises immediately, a measure experts called a “political stunt.” Unlike DeSantis, members of Congress oversee the CDC and the agency is responsible for implementing laws related to public health that are passed by the House and Senate.

It’s unclear if Rubio, Scott and Sullivan’s bill will have enough support to pass, though Democrats will likely need to back the GOP-only legislation for it to gain enough votes to become law.

Miami Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

“This legislation will fix the CDC’s arbitrary guidelines and give clarity and fairness to the industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Miami’s entire tourism economy,” Salazar said in a statement.

On Friday, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that resuming cruises presents a unique set of logistical and public health challenges compared to other modes of transportation, but that he would like to resume cruises by mid-summer.

“Airplanes have one safety profile; cruise ships have another, vehicles have another,” Buttigieg said. “And each one needs to be treated based on what’s safe for that sector. I’ll tell you, I certainly care a lot about seeing the cruise sector thrive. And I know that CDC is hopeful that a lot of these operators will be in a position to be sailing by mid-summer.”

Miami Herald staff writer Taylor Dolven contributed to this report.