Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate on May 14th, on the subject of Puerto Rico and the disaster relief bill currently under discussion in the Senate.
“A lot of Americans are still waiting for the Senate to put politics aside and help them piece their lives back together from natural disasters last year,” Schumer began. His remarks pointed out the likelihood that these disasters owe something to climate change.
He moved on to the disaster relief bill, saying that members of his party “have maintained that it must include relief for ALL Americans affected by disasters last year, not just those Americans living in the West or Midwest or South, but also the three million American citizens living in Puerto Rico.”
Additional help for Puerto Rico has been a point of contention in discussions of disaster relief bills in the House and the Senate. Some members have held that Puerto Rico has already received enough financial support, or that enough disaster relief funding has already been allocated, even if it has not yet been received.
There have also been suggestions that Puerto Rico has not made wise use of disaster relief funding, and that additional funds going to Puerto Rico would reduce available help for States. Some of this rhetoric has come from the White House. Senate Republicans have been working with the White House in an effort to produce a bill that will satisfy all sides of the question.
“It’s not a zero-sum game,” Schumer pointed out. “It’s not that, if you help Puerto Rico, you won’t be helping Florida or Iowa. You can help them all and that’s what Americans have always done.”
Schumer went on to say, “I am encouraged that Republicans are starting to realize that we cannot leave Puerto Rico out… [I]f Puerto Rico’s not in the package, no package will pass.”
Puerto Rico has been described as “a sticking point” for disaster relief funding.
“I hope that we can find an agreement soon, and put this unnecessary political fight behind us,” Schumer concluded, “and finally deliver relief to disaster-stricken Americans wherever they may be.”
A House disaster relief bill passed last week with bipartisan support.