Now that Congress has adjourned for its August recess, pundits are catching their breath and conjuring scenarios about how much Congress can or will accomplish with what's left of the legislative calendar.
Not surprisingly, a lot of important work has been left undone, such as long-term immigration reform or even short-term action to address the influx of children across our southern border.
A temporary fix was found for the depleted Highway Trust Fund, but Congress has yet to find a self-sustaining funding vehicle for the long term.
The House passed an extension of the Travel Promotion Act, reauthorizing Brand USA through the year 2020, but the Senate didn't get to it.
With all this important work undone, what are we to do with the Cruise Passenger Protection Act? This bill, sponsored and championed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), has taken on the appearance of a one-man parade to nowhere.
Rockefeller introduced the bill a year ago with one co-sponsor and has since gathered only two more. The bill and the cruise industry it seeks to reform have been the topic of several hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee, but it seems that the committee took an interest only because Rockefeller is the chairman.
At the latest open session, Rockefeller said he hoped to attach it to an unrelated bill that has a good chance of passing, a sure sign that the Cruise Passenger Protection Act has little chance of advancing on its own.
In the House, a companion bill was introduced last year and was referred to a subcommittee of the Transportation Committee. As far as we can tell, nothing has happened there since.
Normally, a legislator with a pet project like this could play the long game, reach out to other legislators, seek support in the administration, build a consensus, one handshake at a time. For Rockefeller, however, there is no long game. He is retiring at the end of this term.
But it's not a case of now or never. We think it ought to be a case of later and better. We think Rockefeller should leave this task to his successors.
This is a bad bill, and not merely because some of its provisions aren't well thought out. It was born out of Rockefeller's open hostility toward the cruise industry, which we don't think is a productive environment for legislating. In both style and substance, we think Congress can do better.
A case can surely be made that cruise passengers deserve more clarity and certainty from their government and their cruise lines about their rights and remedies in cases of trip disruptions, natural disasters, crime, accidents and medical emergencies at sea.
And if a cruise line fails to handle these incidents with sensitivity and care, the government has an unquestioned right to monitor performance and correct abuses on behalf of its citizens, whether they're one mile from port or 1,000.
But these issues are best addressed constructively rather than vengefully. Rockefeller has branded the cruise lines as "outlaws" and unabashedly drafted onerous regulations in a spiteful attempt to teach them a lesson. It certainly doesn't seem to have won him any allies on the Hill.
Rockefeller has had a distinguished career serving the people of West Virginia as state legislator, secretary of state, governor and senator, and he deserves to bow out of politics on a high note. It's a shame that the Cruise Passenger Protection Act isn't it.