It’s been over eighteen months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Parts of the island are still in shameful disrepair, and getting food and other necessities into the hands of many Puerto Ricans is still a struggle.
Yet lawmakers still play political games with the island, refusing to back different aid packages along party lines. Both Republicans and Democrats have introduced similar legislation that would allocate funds to Puerto Rico – as well as parts of the South and Midwest that have been ravaged by weather events – only to see the other party block efforts.
President Trump has said that Puerto Rico has received too much aid, and he has suggested that the territorial government is misusing what it has received. As a result, he has become a target of criticism, especially for Democrats.
The fight over funding for Puerto Rico has led to a spat between two senators. Rick Scott (R-FL), who made taking care of Puerto Rico a key feature of his campaign, and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have gone back and forth over the competing aid packages, and the bickering has gotten nasty.
Scott has also gone after Schumer outside of social media, while Schumer has punched back:
Scott added that he had taken other steps to help struggling families. “Did Schumer open up a relief center in New York? No, he forgot to do that. Did he waive any regulations that I know of so that kids can get into schools? … No, they didn’t do any of that stuff.”
A spokesperson for Schumer responded: “Senator Scott’s energy would be better spent working with the Governor of Puerto Rico to urge Leader [Mitch] McConnell to stop blocking proposals that provide much-needed aid to Puerto Rico, instead of criticizing the people who are trying to actually help.”
Rick Scott has a couple of valid points. One is that the Democrats would rather deny any money to the island that have a Trump-led GOP claim a victory. His other worthwhile observation is that thing like this cause people to hate politics – and politicians. As much as I hate it, Schumer’s on to something too: Republicans could do a better job calling Trump out on his harsh words for Puerto Rico.
But at the end of the day, the worst problem is that the party-line bickering over aid packages to Puerto Rico (and other places, but particularly Puerto Rico) is preventing the crucial aid from reaching those who need it the most. Both parties need to stop acting like petulant children and come up with a compromise that helps the people who have been ravaged by disaster. I’m not holding my breath for that to happen any time soon.