"That is critical, particularly for fuel", he said.
Even before the storm hit, shipping household and commercial goods to Puerto Rico cost roughly double what it did to nearby Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, where foreign vessels are free to dock. We did receive a congressional letter today. John McCain, who would like to see the act not just waived but repealed.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump was finally tweeting about Puerto Rico - but his message may not be well-received by residents struggling with the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
"These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions", McCain said. If a foreign ship unloads in Puerto Rico, it must pay high tariffs, taxes and fees, costs which get passed along to consumers.
The argument seems to be that if the Jones Act were waived here, the price of some goods might come down.
Seven House Democrats, led by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez of NY, also sent a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke on Tuesday urging a waiver and requesting Puerto Rico be exempted from requirements that local resources match federal funds expended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the DHS acknowledged the letter written by members of Congress in favor of scrapping the act.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said such a waiver is not yet needed, CNN reported.
The DHS officials said that contrary to news reports, DHS has not denied any waiver requests associated with Hurricane Maria. A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection on Monday said "t$3 he limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability".
In response, the Department of Homeland Security said the Jones Act was waived after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to make up for fuel pipelines that were shut.
I'm not saying that the guests at the exclusive fund-raiser haven't sent money, and help to Puerto Rico - many have - nor that FEMA isn't doing what they can, but that $5 million they forked over to further the President's agenda should have gone into furthering the agenda of the desperate Americans in a land totally ravaged by Hurricane Maria. That's going to make recovery much harder - which is why some argue lifting the Jones Act would help.
However, for Puerto Ricans, the law is a heavy burden. "Temporarily loosening these requirements-for the express goal of disaster recovery-will allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants, food, medicines, clothing, and building supplies", they wrote in a letter to Homeland Security acting secretary Elaine Duke. "Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome act".
McCain, a longtime critic of the rule, urged the government to reconsider - and to take the opportunity to scrap the Jones Act for good.
"As based upon our current conversations, there is not a lack of vessels to move the goods that we need to support the humanitarian relief efforts", a senior DHS official told reporters Wednesday. Meant to ensure that the United States maintains a shipbuilding industry, the law mandates that, among other things, only USA ships are permitted to carry US goods from one domestic port to another - and all those ships have to be US -sourced and operated. A waiver was granted to lift the Jones Act during the days immediately following Hurricane Harvey.
The Shipbuilders Council of America did not respond for comment on the Jones Act, but according to its website the council strongly supports the act, calling it "vital to America's economic, national and homeland security".
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