The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authority under maritime law to quarantine Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) houseboat, Almost Heaven, and everyone who attended a party with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Graham announced Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, despite being vaccinated. The Associated Press reported that he had “attended a gathering on Sen. Joe Manchin’s houseboat the evening that he first developed symptoms.” Others Senators present included. Chris Coons (D-DE), John Thune (R-SD), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Theoretically, the CDC could quarantine the Almost Heaven and everyone on it, especially because the boat is docked in the District of Columbia, which is under exclusive federal jurisdiction, and connected to interstate waterways.
The CDC website explains that it has the authority to quarantine people on vessels suspected of being infectious:
The federal government derives its authority for isolation and quarantine from the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264), the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states.
The authority for carrying out these functions on a daily basis has been delegated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When alerted about an ill passenger or crew member by the pilot of a plane or captain of a ship, CDC may detain passengers and crew as necessary to investigate whether the cause of the illness on board is a communicable disease.
Such quarantines are rare. In January 2020, President Donald Trump issued the first quarantine orders in 50 years, applying to Americans who had recently visited China. The Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in Japan.
The Supreme Court in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach (2013) held that even homes on water, such as Manchin’s, are “vessels” subject to federal admiralty jurisdiction if they are designed for travel, such as by having a keel and rudder.
International law also permits the application of such quarantines under existing maritime treaties and regulations.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.