President Trump ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders this morning.
At the request of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, Trump “has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately."
On Wednesday, DHS officials said that the administration was considering lifting the law, which bans foreign-flagged ships from carrying freight between U.S. ports.
As a reminder, The 1920 Jones Act requires shipments of goods between two U.S. ports to be made with American-flagged vessels, limiting the amount of shipping and driving up its cost, and had been holding up shipments of much needed support equipment and supplies for Puerto Rico.
A number of lawmakers had urged the Trump administration to waive the law and to do it immediately. Among them is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wrote a letter Tuesday to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke demanding she take action.
“It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster,” McCain wrote. “We must treat this emergency relief with urgency ? every day that business owners are unable to recover their assets and account for lost business, the economy will retreat even further into devastation.”
The Department of Homeland Security has gotten emergency waivers to the Jones Act twice in the last month to help with recovery efforts in Texas and Florida after hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But during testimony Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Duke said DHS can issue waivers only if they are related to national defense matters. The waivers for Texas and Florida were to help aid fuel shortages, she said, which fall under the category of national security.
“We don’t know of fuel shortages on the island of Puerto Rico,” Duke said. “If there are fuel shortages, we are looking at the Jones Act. … We will use it appropriately.”
Presumably, they do now.