With questions being raised by lawmakers in both parties about U.S. disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump on Friday raised the specter of a more limited government response in the American territory of Puerto Rico, writing on Twitter that “big decisions” will have to be made about the future of the island.
“The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes,” the President said. “Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what the President was suggesting – but the widespread nature of the damage from Maria almost ensures that the federal government will be picking up a sizeable disaster tab in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
That came as the President continued to defend his administration’s response to the damage from Hurricane Maria, as Mr. Trump continues to say that disaster relief efforts are doing the job, while press reports from the island indicate the many still remain without power and clean water, as the President blamed the news media for those messages.
But in Congress, Republicans from Florida have been gently suggesting in public to the White House – and the President – that the while there has been a mobilization of resources, the effort is not what’s needed.
“Time is of the essence. We must do more,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), whose district covers the Florida Keys, which were devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – who has sent some of his Senate staff to Puerto Rico to help – says the U.S. military needs to do even more.
As for Democrats, they continue to argue for a stronger response, both from the White House, and in terms of disaster aid approved by the Congress.
“The President was slow and begrudging in mobilizing the military for Puerto Rico,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “This failure is harming millions of Americans.”
Asked about stories that suggested a disconnect between how the Trump Administration sees the aid effort, and press stories from the ground in Puerto Rico, White House officials – and the President – continued to make the case that they are doing a good job in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“Honestly, this is something that is going to require weeks and months’ worth of patience as we restore power, get food and water, and return to normalcy,” said Tom Bossert, the President’s Homeland Security adviser.
And on Twitter, the President quoted the Governor of Puerto Rico.
“The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered,” Mr. Trump tweeted.