Trump Cites Storm's Budget Impact in Puerto Rico Visit
By Peter NicholasArian Campo-Flores And Natalie Andrews
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- President Donald Trump commended rescue workers and passed out supplies to storm victims as he toured Puerto Rico on Tuesday, while also saying that the costs tied to Hurricane Maria have "thrown our budget a little out of whack," drawing rebukes from Democrats who called the remarks callous.
Mr. Trump's visit comes as the administration is expected to request more hurricane relief funding from Congress this week, according to GOP congressional aides, to replenish disaster-relief coffers as the nation recovers from being hit by three hurricanes in two months. As of Tuesday morning, the unspent current disaster-relief fund stood at $9.25 billion. Of that, $2.03 billion is allocated to the areas affected by Hurricane Maria.
Lawmakers last month appropriated $15.25 billion in relief funds, two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and while Hurricane Irma was making landfall in Florida. Hurricane Maria first made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. An additional $6.7 billion became available on Oct. 1, stemming from Congress's passage of a continuing resolution attached to the hurricane-relief measure.
In their tour Tuesday, Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, met with Puerto Rican officials before getting a firsthand look at the storm damage. While introducing his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, the president noted that the hurricane has strained the government's coffers.
"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," the president said. "Because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that's fine. We've saved a lot of lives."
Mr. Trump suggested that the death toll might have been much higher if not for exemplary rescue and recovery efforts. He drew a contrast with another deadly hurricane, Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and killed more than 1,800 people. Citing the official Puerto Rico death toll of 16, the president said that while "every death is a horror ... you can be very proud of all your people -- all of our people working together."
Mr. Trump's remarks about the recovery costs angered Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who last month struck a budget deal with the president and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in a rare sign of bipartisan cooperation.
"Mr. President, enough. Stop blaming Puerto Rico for the storm that devastated their shores, and roll up your sleeves and get the recovery on track," Mr. Schumer said. "I don't remember the president telling Texas that they threw our budget out of whack after Harvey. Or Florida after Irma."