Trump: Puerto Rico put budget ‘out of whack’
President jokes, praises response to Hurricane Maria
USA TODAY WASHINGTON While President Donald Trump toured Puerto Rico on Tuesday to praise his team’s response to Hurricane Maria, some of his critics heard other things — including a joke about the expense of the effort and praise for the fact that only 16 people have died since the deadly storm two weeks ago.
“Sixteen people certified — 16 people versus in the thousands,” Trump said during a briefing with Puerto Rican officials; he added that while “every death is a horror,” the devastation has not been “a real catastrophe” on the same scale of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,800 people in New Orleans in 2005.
Citing the logistical and financial challenges of the federal disaster response on the island, Trump quipped: “Now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, but you’re throwing our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that’s fine; we saved a lot of lives.”
Trump’s comments did not go over well with some U.S. lawmakers.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hit Trump for having “the gall to complain about Puerto Rico,” while he has proposed “tax cuts for billionaires.”
In addition to the briefing, Trump toured a neighborhood where residents are rebuilding damaged homes. “We’re going to help you out,” he told members of one family.
At a church converted into a relief center, Trump handed out bags of rice and “shot” rolls of paper towels into the crowd like basketballs.
Trump also confronted one of his critics, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has clashed with Trump over the pace of relief efforts.
During his time on the island, Trump shook hands with Cruz, but she did not react kindly to his comment about the whack in the budget. “It just goes to prove the lack of sensibility,” she told CNN. “It does not make you feel too good.”