Mitt Romney calls on Congress to ‘put differences aside,’ prioritize Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands ‘rescue’

Yachts lie wrecked in a marina in the Palmas del Mar resort near Humacao, Puerto Rico, Sept. 24, 2017. Hurricane Maria lashed Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm, causing widespread damage and leaving the island without power. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)
Yachts lie wrecked in a marina in the Palmas del Mar resort near Humacao, Puerto Rico. –Victor J. Blue / The New York Times

Get Boston Globe's Political Happy Hour newsletter, your afternoon shot of politics, sent straight from the desk of Joshua Miller.

President Donald Trump has yet to use his social media platform to raise awareness for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is among a number of high-profile political figures stepping in to fill the void.

In a tweet Monday afternoon, the former Massachusetts governor called on political leaders in Washington, D.C., to set aside political difference to “rescue” Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The two U.S. territories — home to a combined 3.5 million American citizens — have been devastated this month by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Romney said he had spoken with former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño, who said the island is on the “brink of humanitarian disaster.”

Advertisement

The tweet from the 2012 Republican nominee comes as GOP leaders in Congress continue to push a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Congress has yet to approve a relief package, as they did for Texas and Florida, in the wake of Maria. In the meantime, FEMA and the Department of Defense is working to provide humanitarian assistance to the two islands.

Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, said Sunday that the Caribbean island has been set back “nearly 20-30 years” by Maria, which made landfall on the territory last week as a Category 4 storm. Puerto Rico suffered unprecedented damage to its power grid and is expected to go weeks or months before it regains electricity. The New York Times reports that Maria destroyed 80 percent of the island’s crop value. Water and food is reportedly limited.

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” one farmer told the Times. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands are similarly reeling from Irma, which hit parts of the archipelago at Category 5 strength, flattening nearly everything in its path. Officials say the islands’ infrastructure and power grid have been destroyed, as some residents go into “survival mode.”

Advertisement

A new hurricane relief effort spearheaded by the five living former U.S. presidents expanded their efforts Monday to include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.