Democrats Want Emergency Hearing over Hurricane Response

The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and the Virgin Islands’ representative in Congress on Friday called for an “emergency” hearing on the Trump administration’s response to this month’s deadly hurricanes, The Hill reports.

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy , they asked for a hearing next week given that the full panel does not currently have any public activity scheduled.

“Urgent action by our Committee now could help accelerate the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and make a measurable and significant difference in the lives of American families there,” Representative Elijah Cummings and Delegate Stacey Plaskett wrote.

The Trump administration has faced criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria, which has wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, while the Virgin Islands is also recovering from both Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

President Donald Trump said Friday during a speech in Washington on his tax reform plan that sending aid to Puerto Rico is difficult because it is “surrounded by water”, adding that the island’s debt crisis has also made the hurricane response more complicated.

“Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort … will be funded. We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe,” Trump stressed.

Cummings and Plaskett noted that former House Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, led an investigation into the Bush administration’s response after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as precedent.

“Oversight now also could help prevent a worsening of the human tragedy that is unfolding and could help ensure that the lessons our Committee identified from past federal responses are implemented by the Trump administration,” they wrote.

Gowdy said in a statement later Friday afternoon that Oversight Committee staff have been participating in regular briefings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about the response to recent hurricanes. He said that asking FEMA officials to testify before the committee would use up time that could be spent on directing disaster relief, The Hill adds.

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