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US House Democratic delegation travels to Puerto Rico, USVI

By on July 28, 2018

SAN JUAN – U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation of 14 members of Congress to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Thursday and Friday to “focus on” and give exposure to the territories’ hurricane recovery efforts.

The Democratic lawmakers traveled to the islands to “listen, to learn and to shine a light on this crisis,” Pelosi said Wednesday. The delegation visited families, local officials and leaders, faith groups and community groups to “discuss the steps that remain to be taken to put our fellow Americans back on the road to recovery,” she said before the trip.

“Nearly one year after the hurricanes hit, the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still struggling to heal, rebuild and recover from these horrific disasters,” Pelosi further said. “The suffering endured by our fellow Americans on the islands in the months following the hurricanes has been a challenge to the conscience of our nation. We must do better to prevent the loss of life, expedite the recovery, and prepare for the next storm.”

Some of Pelosi’s notable remarks during a press conference at Roque Díaz Tizol School in Yabucoa follow:

We came here to carry back a message of what the priorities are of the people of Puerto Rico, and we met with the Governor, we have an ongoing conversation with him about how we can expedite, make things happen faster.

–Listening to the community-based organizations, the labor unions, visiting the disaster recovery centers, seeing the Casa Pueblo and the initiative there to move away from fossil fuels and to renewables and how that cuts costs but also saves the planet.

–My carry-back from this is that we need, perhaps, in our legislating, in our advocacy, to find ways to speed things up, to cut red tape, to reduce bureaucratic obstacles to moving resources to the people to build the future and, again, I think there is an opportunity to leap-frog over – renewables – all kinds of new and innovative ways that we have heard from the people of Puerto Rico that they have the aspirations to do.

–Really, Puerto Rico is in the position it is in because, in my view, greed in the marketplace and we cannot let that happen again.

–The fact that the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy – they can, but Puerto Rico can’t.  So it exacerbated the conversation because they didn’t have those kinds of options as they went on along.  So I think you have to put everything on the table, see what is possible sooner, what you can negotiate for, and do it in a way that is not to replace to go back to where we were but we innovate and go into the future.

–What happened with the hurricanes, is it challenged the conscious of country.  Mike Byrne of FEMA will not mind if I say, we put out a report just a couple weeks ago that said FEMA was not equipped with money.  Nobody was ready for a second storm.  Especially of the magnitude.

“…after a natural disaster as Congresswoman Velázquez said, there is a compact between the federal government and the American people.  That was not fully honored in my view.  So we’re talking about right now – immediate relief – we’re past that stage.  Immediate relief, rescue and that.  We’re into the recovery stage of all of that.  And when we’re in the recovery phase, take advantage of the opportunities that are there.

Besides Pelosi, the delegation included:

  • Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Judiciary Committee
  • Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Ranking Member, Small Business Committee; Natural Resources Committee; Financial Services Committee
  • Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Judiciary Committee; Homeland Security Committee
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ranking Member, Rules Committee; Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Financial Services Committee; Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Appropriations Committee
  • Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), Ways & Means Committee; Intelligence Committee
  • Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Agriculture Committee; Chair, Congressional Hispanic Caucus
  • Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Energy & Commerce Committee
  • Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), Oversight & Government Reform Committee; Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; Oversight & Government Reform Committee; Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Agriculture Committee; Small Business Committee
  • Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Judiciary Committee; Homeland Security Committee
  • Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Education & Workforce Committee; Small Business Committee; Foreign Affairs Committee

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