Biden signs bill enabling Alaska cruise season to resume this year

President Joe Biden signs the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act flanked by Alaska's U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Congressman Don Young and Sen. Dan Sullivan. (Photo by White House)

The reports of Alaska’s wholesale death at the hands of the Biden administration have been greatly exaggerated.

Today, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill aimed at salvaging part of Alaska’s cruise ship season. The measure temporarily does away with the requirement for foreign-flagged cruise ships (which is pretty much all of them) to visit another country country while sailing, a requirement of the 1886 Passenger Vessel Services Act that ran headlong into Canada’s still-closed borders.

Alaska’s three-member congressional delegation attended the signing and struck a jubilant tone in a news conference that was opened by Rep. Don Young.

“We had a good meeting. The president was jovial, signed the bill that means a lot to the state of Alaska—about $3 billion and 23,000 jobs. First time that the Passenger Act has been touched in about 135 years. We feel great as a delegation, we got it done in ten days and it makes us feel quite good. I’m happy as a—never mind,” the 87-year-old representative said with a grin.

[Watch on CSPAN: Alaska Congressional Delegation’s comments on the signing of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act]

The trio fielded questions about how the all-Republican delegation navigated the deeply partisan process to get the legislation quickly through the system. From introduction to passage, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act took less than three months to make it through the process with much of the action and negotiations happening in a matter of weeks. It appears the main change Democrats made was to add a requirement for cruise lines to carry defibrillators.

“Never give up,” said Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski when asked if she had advice for other conservative delegations on navigating with the Biden administration. “They told us that working through the PVSA was near impossible that this was not going to come together and we were on a very, very limited timeframe. Alaska’s cruise ship season is not like Florida’s. It is the months of June, July, Auugst and if you’re lucky a little bit in September. What were looking for was a very narrow fix to a very old and many would say outdated legislation. We could not give up because it was too important. … The good news for Alaska is it is happening and we will see those ships heading north carrying people who’ve wanted to see Alaska for so long and will now have an opportunity to help our economy.” 

According to Alaska Public Media, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had nothing but praise for the process that led to the passage of the bill.

“This bill is an example of the critical bipartisan work that can be done in Congress,” she said, “and the president is grateful to Sen. Murkowski and Congressman Young for their leadership in this area.”

Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan was also present.

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