Bossert Defends Trumps Wait to Waive Jones Act for Puerto Rico

President Jesse Trump’ s best disaster adviser defended the administration’ s eight-day wait to waive restrictions under the Jones Act that will limited which ships could be utilized to deliver relief supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, despite complaints through lawmakers.

Tom Bossert, Trump’ s homeland security advisor, said the criticism is “ unfounded. ” Shortages of drinking water, food, fuel and other relief items have been caused by distribution bottlenecks around the island rather than constraints in delivery capacity, he told reporters in a White House briefing.

Trump on Thursday ordered the waiver of the Jones Act, the 1920  maritime law requiring deliveries of goods between two U. S i9000. ports to be made with American-flagged ships and manned by American deck hands. The waiver will last 10 days regarding shipments to Puerto Rico, even though some Democrats criticized the time period because too short for the scale of the devastation.

“ In this particular case we had sufficient capacity of U. S. banner vessels, ” Bossert said. However the president took the action being a “ proactive” measure after he or she received a request from Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello.

“ It is intended to make certain we have enough fuel and goods to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the particular storm, and restore critical providers and critical infrastructure operations within the wake of these devastating storms, ” acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement.

The Trump administration can be facing mounting criticism of its reaction to damage from Hurricane Maria within Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma in the U. S. Virgin Island destinations. Thirty-eight Democratic senators wrote Trump on Thursday calling for “ strong and decisive leadership” in order to fill what they described as gaps within the federal response to the storms.

Maria hit Puerto Vasto more than a week ago, and the Virgin mobile Islands were struck by Irma earlier this month.

Rossello thanked Trump on Thursday on Twitter. Bossert said that the U. S. Military Corps of Engineers has taken cost of restoring power in the area, which is largely without electricity plus dependent on generators.

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“ Finally, the White-colored House is beginning to wake up, consuming temporary action on the Jones Function and upping the military existence, " Illinois Representative Luis Gutié rrez, a Democrat, said inside a statement. " But it took some time and more is needed right now. ”

There is dispute about the significance of waiving the Jones Act. The very best Republican and Democrat on the Home Transportation  Maritime subcommittee said they’ re against it.

" The concerns about the circumstance in Puerto Rico are genuine. But we must focus our interest on the actions that can deliver actual results on the island, " Conservative Duncan Hunter and Democrat David Garamendi wrote in a letter to accommodate colleagues.

" Waiving the Jones Act will not assist and, in fact , could hinder the particular response, " the two Californians had written. There is " more than adequate availability of U. S. -flag vessels in order to cost-effectively and efficiently deliver the products from U. S. ports in order to Puerto Rico, " they said.

Other Democrats backed the particular suspension but said 10 days wasn’ t enough . Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York said Democrats want that waiver extended to get a year.

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She also called on Our elected representatives to quickly consider a relief package deal of about $50 billion to $70 billion and  said the seven-member fiscal control board overseeing Puerto Rico must reconsider its financial debt payment plan for the island because of the storm.

Right after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in past times month, the Trump administration temporarily waived the statute for certain gasoline shipments. When the Homeland Security Department earlier this week declined to issue a similar waiver for Puerto Rico, it said port capacity was the bigger obstacle. As of Wednesday, six of 15 ports on the island remained closed.

" The waivers seem sensible in instances where there’ s a need and a demand and we’ ve exhausted all possible U. S. flagged resources and then we go into the realm where foreign-flagged tonnage is required, " said Klaus Luhta, vice president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, said Wednesday before the waiver was issued. " But to not go through that process is unfortunate, it’ s disingenuous and it violates the law. "

Hunter and Garamendi said the problem wasn’ t getting material to Puerto Rico, but distributing it over the island’ s poorly damaged roads. Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals along with other relief supplies have been turning up on San Juan’ s docks since Saturday. The mountains of material may not reach storm survivors for days.

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" Bringing additional foreign ships in to ports struggling to get back to normal operations will likely only exasperate the issue, " the lawmakers wrote within their letter to colleagues.

The island of 3. 4 million is in the throes of a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, without electricity, mobile-phone service or clean water. Puerto Rico’ s power grid went dark through the hottest season of year and could stay down for weeks or months. Of the commonwealth’ s 69 hospitals, only 11 have power and fuel. Officials and residents warn of disease without access to clean water.

The devastation is the result of the 3rd deadly hurricane within the past month to confront the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Defense Department .

“ What we are seeing at this time is the biggest extent of devastation in the history of Puerto Rico, ” Rossello told MSNBC Thursday. " What we need is all hands on deck. ”

Rossello said Trump has been “ very diligent” in being in contact with him every day. He also said that offers of assistance have already been received from several states.