After public pressure mounted, the Trump administration on Thursday authorized that the almost century-old Jones Act be waived following Hurricane Maria to ease shipping rules for Puerto Rico.
As the situation in Puerto Rico worsened in the days after the hurricane slammed the island, some members of Congress asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a waiver, as it had for previous hurricanes.
On Wednesday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, also called on the Trump administration to issue a waiver.
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who said he spoke with Rossello, said that the waiver has not come too late and is merely a proactive measure.
The controversy before the waiver
The president was asked Wednesday why his administration lifted the act to get aid to Texas and Florida but hadn’t done so in the wake of Maria.
“We’re thinking about that,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One Wednesday on his way to Indiana. “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted. We have a lot of ships out there right now.”
This was the first time that a governor from a U.S. territory has made a Jones Act waiver request. Generally, the requests come from another federal agency or shippers themselves.
Democrats and Republicans alike began pushing earlier this week for DHS to lift the Jones Act restrictions.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who’s been fighting to repeal the law for years, said it’s “unacceptable to force” Puerto Rico to pay “twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure” as they recover from Maria.
“Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act,” McCain wrote in a statement Tuesday.
“Mr. President, please waive the Jones Act so that Puerto Rico can receive the relief it needs!” Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida, wrote on Twitter.
During a congressional hearing with the secretary of homeland security Wednesday, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said that “Puerto Rico, in good times, thinks that the Jones Act cost them about a billion-and-a-half dollars in economic activity a year, but they especially need it now in just getting vessels in.”
Eight members of Congress led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., sent a written request Monday to DHS acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
By Wednesday, DHS…