Ryan: Feds have duty to help Puerto Rico

Ryan: Feds have duty to help Puerto Rico

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday that Puerto Rico is facing a “humanitarian crisis” and argued that the federal government has a responsibility to provide personnel and aid to the hurricane-ravaged island territory.

But Ryan also appeared to defend controversial remarks by President Trump that federal resources cannot remain in Puerto Rico “forever,” saying the territory needs to get back "on its own two feet." The president did not make similar comments about two other regions that have been slammed by hurricanes, Houston and south Florida.    

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“Yes, we need to make sure that Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “They’ve already had tough fiscal problems to begin with. ... We’ve got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy so that it can be self-sufficient.”

The speaker visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters last week and is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Puerto Rico on Friday to see firsthand the damage and recovery effort. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power, water and health care, according to news reports.

On Thursday morning, Trump infuriated Puerto Rican officials and Democrats in Washington by threatening on Twitter to pull federal resources out of the island.

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” Trump tweeted.

Ryan, however, argued that the immediate humanitarian crisis there did warrant having 17,000 federal personnel on the ground, including FEMA and military officials.

“There’s a humanitarian crisis that has to be attended to. And this is an area where the federal government has a responsibility, and we’re acting on it,” Ryan said.