Sens. Rick Scott and Chuck Schumer have turn out to be entangled in a broader struggle over stalled help for thousands and thousands of Individuals devastated by pure disasters. | POLITICO illustration/AP, iStock
Rick Scott campaigned on standing up for Puerto Rico. However with President Donald Trump warning senators to not present extra assist to the island, the Florida Republican is caught between his celebration and his guarantees.
And Democrats are keen to use that stress — blasting Scott for sticking with the president on a important catastrophe aid invoice and throwing the freshman senator into the center of a broader struggle over stalled help for thousands and thousands of Individuals devastated by wildfires, flooding and hurricanes.
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Scott, in the meantime, is lashing out at his Democratic critics, feuding particularly with Senate Minority Chief Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in more and more private phrases.
“This can be a nice instance of why individuals hate politics. Not solely did @SenSchumer block a bipartisan invoice, now he’s mendacity about it,” Scott tweeted Sunday night. “Our invoice doesn’t strip funding for P.R. It contains $600 mil in diet help funding for P.R. that I fought to get within the invoice.”
Schumer responded Monday: “Everyone knows @realDonaldTrump took all assist for Puerto Rico however diet help out of the invoice. The invoice has not one of the long-term restoration & resilience assist PR has requested for repeatedly. Cease the bull. Stand as much as the President.”
A pair hours later, Scott tweeted again, “The reality is, you’re very happy to offer Puerto Rico nothing if it helps extend a political struggle with Trump. That’s shameful.”
I’m working with Rs, Ds and the President to get a deal executed. However it shouldn’t have taken this lengthy. FL’s been ready 6 months.
The reality is, you’re very happy to offer Puerto Rico nothing if it helps extend a political struggle with Trump. That’s shameful. https://t.co/MHEYlrSdtj
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) April 15, 2019
The catastrophe assist invoice serves as a primary essential take a look at for the previous Florida governor, who campaigned in 2018 as an advocate for Puerto Rico and somebody keen to separate with Trump.
Throughout his profitable marketing campaign in opposition to incumbent Sen. Invoice Nelson (D-Fla.), Scott mentioned he disagreed with Trump’s baseless suggestion that Democrats inflated the quantity of people that died from Hurricane Maria. Scott cited his feedback, made on Twitter, in a Spanish-language business. In keeping with sources who observe media shopping for, Scott spent $four.7 million on Spanish-language TV and radio throughout his marketing campaign.
After his slim victory, Scott delivered a flooring speech through which he mentioned he intends to be a “voice for the individuals of Puerto Rico” within the Senate and supplied an modification to offer catastrophe assist to Puerto Rico as a part of laws to finish the federal government shutdown.
The modification went nowhere in the course of the shutdown, and Democrats scoff at his declare to be a champion for the struggling territory.
“For those who wanna be an advocate you might want to be an advocate, which implies try to be advocating for Puerto Rico which isn’t what he’s doing,” mentioned Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
When requested about his response to Democratic criticism, Scott went after Schumer in a short interview final week.
“Who voted for Shelby’s catastrophe invoice, who voted in opposition to it? It was fairly easy,” Scott mentioned, referring to a Republican-backed proposal from Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
Scott added that he had taken different steps to assist struggling households. “Did Schumer open up a aid middle in New York? No, he forgot to do this. Did he waive any laws that I do know of so that youngsters can get into faculties? … No, they didn’t do any of that stuff.”
A spokesperson for Schumer responded: “Senator Scott’s power could be higher spent working with the Governor of Puerto Rico to induce Chief [Mitch] McConnell to cease blocking proposals that present much-needed assist to Puerto Rico, as an alternative of criticizing the people who find themselves making an attempt to really assist.”
Competing measures to offer catastrophe aid didn’t advance earlier this month.
One plan, from Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Shelby, would have supplied $600 million in diet help to Puerto Rico, in addition to cash to the Midwest, which has been hit by current floods.
A Democratic different proposed by Senate Appropriations Rating Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Schumer would have supplied related diet help to Puerto Rico whereas releasing up grant funding from the Division of Housing and City Improvement that has already been allotted to the island; it additionally would have elevated eligibility for catastrophe aid in Midwestern states and Southern states affected by floods.
The GOP proposal didn’t get the 60 votes must advance, as did a Home Democratic invoice; Senate Democrats sought to deliver their plan to the ground by unanimous consent however have been blocked by Republicans.
Democrats blame Trump, who lately complained behind closed doorways to Republican senators that Puerto Rico was getting an excessive amount of catastrophe assist and that the island was misusing federal hurricane aid.
McConnell described Shelby’s invoice as “the one recreation on the town” on the Senate flooring earlier this month, and Republicans say that Trump is all however assured to veto laws that features more cash for Puerto Rico.
“He’s fairly upset about how a lot cash Puerto Rico’s gotten relative to different locations the place there’s been severe disasters,” mentioned Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Scott’s tried to work with the White Home immediately on assist to Puerto Rico. He was amongst a bunch of Republican senators who met with Trump on the White Home final week to debate a deal. However to date no progress has been introduced. A spokesperson for Shelby, who additionally attended the assembly, mentioned in a press release: “The Chairman had a productive assembly on the White Home, and employees will proceed to work to discover a bipartisan path ahead on the catastrophe supplemental.”
Along with assembly with the White Home and proposing the catastrophe assist modification in the course of the shutdown, Scott traveled to Puerto Rico in February and met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló later that month. Rosselló opposes the Republicans’ catastrophe assist invoice and has referred to as for more cash from Congress.
Scott’s discussions with the White Home come amid low approval rankings for Trump amongst Puerto Ricans in Florida, in response to a current survey. The survey discovered that solely 21 % of Puerto Rican in Florida voters had a constructive opinion of Trump, whereas 69 % had an unfavorable opinion. Scott, against this, had a 48 % favorability score and a 35 % unfavorability score.
It’s not remarkable for a freshman senator to assault one other celebration’s chief. However Scott additionally clearly has no downside with making an attempt to grab the highlight. The previous governor often holds solo information conferences on a spread of points, from Washington dysfunction to Venezuelan politics.
Scott’s method to catastrophe assist has additionally been notably completely different from that of Sen. Marco Rubio, his fellow Florida Republican. Rubio defended his colleague saying Scott’s “in favor of doing as a lot as we presumably can.”
However Rubio was extra open about his disagreement with the White Home.
“The fact that we have now right here is the White Home has mentioned that they’d veto a invoice that has extra funding than the meals stamp program,” Rubio mentioned. “I don’t agree with the White Home on it, nevertheless it endangers the invoice. So our job is to attempt to get as a lot as we are able to now.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.
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