Trump temporarily waives shipping restriction to help get aid to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

Trump temporarily waives shipping restriction to help get aid to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans have been hit with shortages of water, food and fuel in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Carlos Giusti/AP
Puerto Ricans have been hit with shortages of water, food and fuel in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Carlos Giusti/AP

President Donald Trump on Thursday waived the Jones Act for Puerto Rico. The Jones Act is a nearly 100-year-old shipping rule that some say was preventing critical aid from reaching the storm-ravaged island.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump waived the rule at the request of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

Waiving the rule will allow foreign ships to bring aid to the island, which is struggling from a lack of food, water and power a week after being hit by Hurricane Maria.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested he hadn’t immediately waived the rule because of pushback from the shipping industry.

“We’re thinking about [lifting the Jones Act],” Trump told reporters before leaving for Indiana, where he delivered a speech on tax reform. “But we have a lot of shipments and a lot of people that work in the industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted, and we have a loft of ships out now.”

Lawmakers from both parties had been calling on Trump to waive the rule, and criticized Trump for not waiving the rule because of what the shipping industry wanted.

“Shipping industry supports #JonesAct b/c it’s protectionist,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted after Trump’s comments. “#PuertoRico deserves better than policy decisions driven by special interests.”

Trump, however, only waived the rule for 10 days, according to a report from the Hill. That’s less than the year-long waiver some lawmakers had asked for.