In photo, a man rides his bicycle through a damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017 following the passage of Hurricane Maria. [MORE]
From [HERE] At least two Senate Republicans are delaying swift passage of a disaster aid package — demanding that Puerto Rico be made permanently exempt from a 1920 law that has complicated efforts to send supplies to the hurricane-ravaged territory.
Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah are holding up the legislation, according to GOP sources, due to fiscal concerns but also to allow Puerto Rico to bow out from the Jones Act, which restricts shipments between U.S. ports to just those vessels built and operated by Americans.
“I’ve got concerns about the absence of reforms in this bill, especially its failures to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act and address the shortcomings of the island’s bankrupt, state-run power company," Flake said in a statement. "Given that the national debt is more than $20 trillion, I believe Congress can do more to ensure every dollar in this bill is used as effectively as possible.”
The Senate on Monday evening voted 79-16 to advance the $36.5 billion measure, which has already passed the House. Even with the objections, senators are expected to pass the bill later this week and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Lee wants 30 minutes on the floor to speak about his concerns before the disaster aid package passes, a spokesman said.
The Trump administration issued a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act late last month, but said it would not extend it.
Lee and another Arizona Republican, Sen. John McCain, have introduced a bill that would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, which the senators say have caused shipping costs from the U.S. mainland to the territory to be double the cost of goods carried from foreign islands near Puerto Rico.
The aid package has been a target of several parochial concerns from senators representing regions recently hit by disaster.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were among the senators pushing for more aid to help their home states recover from the torrent of hurricanes earlier this year.
Cornyn extracted personal assurances last week from the Trump administration that another emergency funding measure will include more money for Texas, which is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in late August.
GOP sources said earlier Monday that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also has a hold on the disaster aid package, but a spokesman said Monday afternoon that the Texas senator released the hold "following conversations with the administration regarding additional supplemental appropriations to provide storm relief to Texans, Floridians, and Puerto Ricans in need."