Lawmakers say that President Trump’s 10-day shipping waiver for Puerto Rico does not go far enough to address the growing crisis on the island, where residents are facing widespread food, water and first aid shortages after Hurricane Maria.
Several members of Congress had been pushing for a one-year waiver of the Jones Act, which requires American-made and -operated vessels to transport cargo between U.S. ports.
“10 days is nothing,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) told reporters Thursday. “The ships have to get in there from the closest port, in the least expensive [way.]”
“Shit doesn’t come from China to Puerto Rico. … Just about everything has been brought in from a port in the United States,” he added.
The White House announced Thursday morning it would temporarily waive the shipping law for Puerto Rico after taking heat for not lifting the restrictions on the island territory earlier in the week. Similar waivers were granted for Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Lawmakers argue that the law has been hamstringing relief efforts on the island. They say the waiver would help bring down the costs of supplies and construction materials and could speed up cargo shipments to the island if foreign vessels are allowed to dock at San Juan.
While some lawmakers called the move a “good first step,” they believe a longer a waiver is necessary. Puerto Rico could be without power for six months and will likely take months to rebuild.
“A 10-day waiver … is far from sufficient given the scope of this tragedy,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) in a statement. “Moreover, as Puerto Rico begins the long road of rebuilding, it will be difficult to do so if building supplies cost double what they are priced on the mainland. To that end, I repeat my previous call for a one-year waiver of the Jones Act.”
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns GOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News MORE (R-Ariz.), a longtime opponent of the restrictions, continued to call for a full repeal of the law on Thursday. The Jones Act, passed in 1920, is favored heavily by the U.S. maritime and shipping industry.
“Trump admin has finally waived #JonesAct for #PuertoRico. Now Congress must repeal this law to aid long-term recovery,” McCain wrote on Twitter.
In addition to getting supplies to the island, however, there are also hurdles to getting the aid distributed around the ravaged island. About 9,500 containers of aid are sitting idle at ports because of a shortage of truckers and the island's devastated infrastructure, according to CNN.