Democratic leaders visited Puerto Rico over the weekend, in order to better understand the challenges that the territory is experiencing after two storms — and a debt crisis — continue to wreak havoc on the island. But President Donald Trump had a different take on the trip, writing a Twitter post saying that Democrats were “celebrating the shutdown” in Puerto Rico.
CBS News reports that about 30 members of Congress flew to Puerto Rico to attend events hosted by the Latino Victory Fund and the Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ fundraising arm. While they were there, they also had the opportunity to attend the award-winning show Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat from California, told CBS News that it was an eye-opening experience for many of the attendees.
“It is more devastating than many of us realized. I’m glad that we came,” he said. “The reason why we came is to touch, feel and smell and understand with our hearts and our minds what the heck is going on in Puerto Rico.”
On Monday morning, the president spoke to reporters in front of the White House. He told cameras that he had been working all weekend while Democrats celebrated on the island.
“I’ve been here all weekend. A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don’t know, maybe they’re celebrating the shutdown. We have a very big crisis, a humanitarian crisis on the border. Everybody knows it. They know it,” he said.
Contrary to the president’s allegations, Democrats claim that the delegation was there to discuss recovery efforts in on the island. Puerto Rico is still struggling after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Tropical Storm Beryl in 2018, disasters exacerbated by a prolonged debt crisis.
During the events, local leaders called for congressional representatives to repeal the Jones Act — an act which ostensibly hobbles commerce on the island — and asked for more federal assistance. They also requested that lawmakers revisit the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. Said act was put in place to manage the debt crisis, but has reportedly resulted in cuts to popular public programs.
One Puerto Rico representative slammed the president for requesting billions of dollars and shutting the government down over a “vanity wall,” while ignoring the plight of millions of Americans.
During Monday’s interview, Trump addressed the shutdown, saying that “many” Democrats are “breaking” on the issue of a border wall, while the Republicans are “rock solid.” As the shutdown enters its 24th day, Trump rejected any suggestion that he would temporarily reopen the government while negotiations over the wall took place.