GOP Senators Hold Up Disaster Aid Bill Over Jones Act Shipping Concerns in Puerto Rico – Politico

crowley flat-deck barge
A Jones Act-qualified barge belonging to U.S. shipping company Crowley which has been participating in the Puerto Rico relief effort. Photo: Crowley Maritime

At least two GOP Senators are delaying the swift passage of a bill that will provide $36.5 billion in disaster relief funding over demands that Puerto Rico be permanently exempt from the Jones Act, Politico reported on Monday.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senator Mike Lee of Utah are holding up the legislation due to fiscal concerns, but also to allow Puerto Rico to bow out from the Jones Act, according to Politico.

The Senate will hold a procedural vote on Monday evening to advance the measure, which has already passed the House, Politico reported. Even with the objections, senators are expected to pass the bill later this week and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature, the report stated.

The bill includes $36.5 billion in emergency funding requested by the Trump administration after the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The bill also includes some funding for recent California wildfires.

The Trump administration issued a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico on September 28 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The waiver expired as scheduled after the Dept. of Homeland Security decided that extension was not needed as there were enough Act-qualified vessels available to ensure that relief cargo was able to reach Puerto Rico.

A spokesperson for the DHS told gCaptain that the agency had counted at least 9 vessels that had used the waiver to transport cargo from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico. The spokesperson said the DHS was notified of an additional seven vessels that intended to use the waiver.

Last month, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced legislation to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act.