President Trump weighs cruise line bailout: Would they need to come home to the U.S.?

Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY

President Donald Trump said Thursday he likes the idea of major cruise ship companies shifting their corporate registrations to the U.S. as a possible requirement in order to qualify for aid under the federal stimulus bill.

He also voiced support for the notion of the government taking ownership stakes in airlines in exchange for loans to keep them afloat as vital businesses.

"We have to keep our airlines going," said Trump, whose company once owned an airline. He added, "now maybe we will take a piece of the airlines for our country...where we loan money and take a piece."

The comments came as industries assess how they fared after the Senate passed the $2 trillion stimulus bill Wednesday night, which now goes to the House. Trump has repeatedly voiced support for airlines and cruise ship companies, saying they are great businesses that deserve to be kept afloat despite being devastated by the business downturn in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

When it comes to cruise lines, Trump voiced support for Sen. Josh Hawley's view that cruise lines should register as American corporations in order to qualify for aid. 

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"Come back to America. And pay your taxes. How about that?" the Missouri Republican tweeted Thursday, sharing a tweet from a New York Times reporter that said Carnival Corp. is incorporated in Panama, Royal Caribbean Cruises in Liberia and Norwegian Cruise Line in Bermuda and thus might be ineligible for stimulus money.

Major cruise operators have ordered ships to port and canceled cruises due to the coronavirus crisis. Several ships had passengers or crew who were believed to have contracted the virus and some were turned away by countries that refused to allow disembarkation, apparently fearing that those aboard the ships could spread the virus.

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Trump, at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House, said Thursday cruise ship operations are a great business but, "I do like the concept of perhaps coming in and registering here ... It's very tough to make a loan to a company when they are based in a different country."

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Trump noted that the cruise lines order a lot of goods in the U.S and have thousands of employees, including many who work on U.S. soil. He hinted that perhaps there may still be a lifeline for the industry by the time the final version of the stimulus hits his desk for a signature.

Indeed, Bari Golin-Blaugrund, spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, said that while about 30,000 travel agents in the U.S. could receive relief under the bill, the industry is continuing to work with policymakers to help hundreds of thousands of others whose jobs are connected to cruise ships.

Trump sounded hopeful that some aid can still be delivered to the cruise ship companies.

"We are going to work very hard on the cruise line business and try to work something in," Trump said.

As for airlines, the stimulus bill includes $50 billion for those carrying passengers and $8 billion those hauling cargo, with half of the sums to be earmarked for worker pay.

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Airlines have gutted their flight schedules as people across the country heed orders to stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus. 

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruises: Trump backs cruise lines re-registering to qualify for US aid