Democratic Lawmakers Write to Trump, Challenging His Call to Cut Federal Aid to Puerto Rico

Nov 20, 2018
12:55 PM

The following media released was shared on November 20, 2018:

Washington, DC – In the wake of President Trump’s statement calling for “no more Puerto Rico relief funds,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and five additional Members of Congress have written the President condemning his comment, saying pulling federal relief aid would have a “catastrophic effect on the Island’s already fragile recovery.”

In the letter, the lawmakers instead suggest that future legislation should preclude disaster relief funds from being used to pay for Puerto Rico’s debt.

“President Trump and Republicans in Congress turned their backs on the American citizens of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and the island is still suffering from their neglect,” Grijalva said. “We need to hold hearings, address the humanitarian crisis and provide every resource we can to help the island rebuild. Instead the president is threatening to pull the little federal relief the island is getting. Nobody wants to see debt relief funds end up in the hands of Wall Street hedge funds and bondholders, but that’s no reason to end aid entirely. Democrats are pushing for a better way that puts the people of Puerto Rico first.”

“The President’s ultimate responsibility is to keep Americans safe during times of disaster and recovery,” said Velázquez. “Certainly, disaster assistance funds shouldn’t be siphoned off to pay hedge funds and Wall Street creditors. However, the answer isn’t to slash assistance to our fellow citizens who are in desperate need, but rather to provide the necessary aid and ensure that it is walled off from creditors.”

“If President Trump were serious about stopping federal relief aid from going to Wall Street, he’d support my and Representative Velázquez’s bill to allow Puerto Rico to cancel its debt, or work with Congress to protect federal dollars from vulture funds,” said Warren. “His proposal to cut off aid to the island instead would just worsen his administration’s already catastrophic response to Hurricane Maria.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Editor’s Note: For those keeping score, four of the elected officials who signed this letter actually voted FOR the PROMESA bill in 2016, yes, the very same bill that has led to a creation of a Fiscal Control Board. The AYE votes are  Rep. Grijalva, Rep. Velázquez, Rep. Thompson and Rep. DeFazio. Sen. Warren and Sen. Menendez, along with Rep Gutiérrez, all voted NAY. Rep. Espaillat was not a member of Congress in 2016. During that time, any move to cancel Puerto Rico’s debt didn’t really have any bipartisan support.