Hours after the Senate voted down a disaster relief package that Democrats argued didn’t include enough money to help storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, President Trump took to Twitter on Monday night to lash out at the opposition party and the island’s leaders.
Trump, who has reportedly said in private that he doesn’t want “another single dollar” going to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, again complained about funding for the island and called San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a frequent critic, “crazed and incompetent.”
“The Democrats today killed a Bill that would have provided great relief to Farmers and yet more money to Puerto Rico despite the fact that Puerto Rico has already been scheduled to receive more hurricane relief funding than any ‘place’ in history,” Trump tweeted around 11 p.m. “The people of Puerto Rico are GREAT, but the politicians are incompetent or corrupt.”
Trump’s late-night outburst suggests there won’t be an easy resolution to the political dispute holding up federal money for those deluged in Midwestern floods and hit by other recent natural calamities. Although disaster relief is traditionally bipartisan, Trump’s reluctance to pay more toward Puerto Rico’s recovery has opened a gulf between the parties.
On Monday, Democratic leaders balked at the $600 million for Puerto Rican food stamps in the $13.45 billion package, arguing it wasn’t enough. But Republicans refused to back a Democratic House bill that failed to account for the historic Midwestern flooding, as it passed before that catastrophe. Democrats have said they support paying for flood relief and attempted Monday to amend their House bill with that money, a move the GOP blocked.
In his tweets, Trump raised a familiar, contested figure for disaster relief in Puerto Rico. Although the president has repeatedly claimed that $91 billion has been spent there, that figure actually reflects a high-end, long-term estimate for recovery costs; a fraction of that has so far been budgeted, and even less has been spent.
“FEMA & the Military worked emergency miracles, but politicians like the crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan have done such a poor job of bringing the Island back to health,” Trump tweeted. “91 Billion Dollars to Puerto Rico, and now the Dems want to give them more, taking dollars away from our Farmers and so many others. Disgraceful!”
Cruz quickly hit back, arguing that Trump was using inaccurate data.
“Pres Trump continues to embarrass himself & the Office he holds. He is unhinged & thus lies about the $ received by PR. HE KNOWS HIS RESPONSE was innefficient at best,” she tweeted. “He can huff & puff all he wants but he cannot escape the death of 3,000 on his watch. SHAME ON YOU!”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has lately taken a more aggressive tone toward Trump, also pushed back and argued that the president was neglecting American citizens on the island.
“Mr. President, this ‘place’ you refer to, #PuertoRico, is home to over three million proud Americans that are still recovering from the storm and in need of federal assistance,” he tweeted. “We are not your adversaries, we are your citizens.”
As The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Jeff Stein reported, there’s no clear path forward for the disaster relief package after Monday’s impasse. Trump seems unlikely to back more money for the island beyond the $600 million in food stamp aid, while Democrats are insistent that the bill include greater relief.
“American children and families reeling from natural disasters deserve a Congress and a president who will ensure they have every resource needed to fully recover and rebuild their lives and communities,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued in the New York Daily News over the weekend.
Trump returned to Twitter on Tuesday morning to continue taking aim at leaders of Puerto Rico and also asserted that “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump.”