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Trump Temporarily Waives Jones Act To Aid Puerto Rico, But Is It Time For A Permanent Waiver?

by Countable | 9.29.17

What’s the story?

President Donald Trump has issued a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act, making it easier for supply-carrying ships to dock in Puerto Rico.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement on Twitter early Thursday morning: "At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately."

Ricardo A. Rosselló is the governor of the island who had requested the U.S. rescind the century-old "Merchant Marine Act of 1920." As explained in an earlier story on Countable, the legislation commonly known as the Jones Act “aims to promote the growth of the commercial shipping industry by requiring all cargo shipped between U.S. ports be carried by ships built, crewed, and owned by Americans.”

By waiving the Jones Act, foreign vessels headed for Puerto Rico can directly dock at the island, rather than first rerouting to a U.S. port and transferring the goods to an American vessel that then delivers the cargo to the U.S. territory.

"It is an act of justice," Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, told CNN on Thursday. “It will allow Puerto Ricans to rebuild and to have a cost of living that really frankly is affordable.”

Why does it matter?

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving many of the its inhabitants without basic supplies and 90 percent of the island without power. Trump had been on the receiving end of growing criticism that his response to the destruction had been lackluster, choosing to focus more on the NFL than the American citizens of Puerto Rico.

"Yes," the Miami Herald wrote, “Maria is Trump’s Katrina.”

On Monday, eight members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for a temporary waiver of the Jones Act to "allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants, food, medicines, clothing, and building supplies."

Politicians from across the political spectrum shared similar sentiments throughout the week. On Monday, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), one of the co-authors of the above letter, also released a statement:

"Puerto Rico can’t borrow funds and they are required to use American shipping only, which is the most expensive in the world. In their hour of need, Washington can help by suspending the Jones Act."

A day later, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), echoed these sentiments.

"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."

Following the Trump administration’s announcement of the short-term waiver Thursday morning, McCain pushed for a permanent solution. An hour after Huckabee Sanders’ tweet, McCain tweeted: "Trump admin has finally waived #JonesAct for #PuertoRico. Now Congress must repeal this law to aid long-term recovery." (McCain’s bill to repeal the Jones Act can be found here.)

Waivers to the Jones Act are nothing new. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced a one week waiver (then extended to two) to ensure that fuel could be distributed to states and territories affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Similar waivers were granted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

What do you think?

Is it time to repeal the Jones Act altogether? Or do you think it will hurt the American shipping industry? Hit Take Action, tell your reps, then comment below.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: Sergio Lacueva / iStockphoto)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(86)
  • Elliott
    09/28/2017
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    Blatant protectionism is detrimental to our economy in general, not just in emergencies. Repeal the Jones Act.

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  • Susan
    09/28/2017
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    It is way past time to repeal this law. And why is he getting praise for waiting so long to do this anyway? He should've done it immediately after the hurricane hit like he did for Houston and Florida.

    Like (14)
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  • Joane
    09/28/2017
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    With the amount of devastation that has occurred and the amount of rebuilding needed, the repeal of this act for ONLY 10 days is pathetic! Adequate supplies will not make it in that tiny time frame. Repeal it for good!

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  • Andrew
    09/28/2017
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    REPEAL THE JONES ACT NOW !!!!

    Like (6)
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  • Janytza.Ortiz
    09/28/2017
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    10 days. Are you kidding me? What exactly is ten days going to do? I’ll tell you. It will give our racist president a feeling of accomplishment. Just a “we tried” feeling. That’s all it will do. Make it permanent. My island is in ruins because you didn’t help at all, Mr. President, until now. And it’s still not doing a thing. If you can not help ALL American citizens, you can’t be president.

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  • Cass
    09/28/2017
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    Repeal it.

    Like (3)
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  • Aaron
    09/28/2017
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    Well it's about damn time, you bigoted fake president. Those are American citizens and you delayed their assistance in their time of need. Maybe more Puerto Ricans will relocate to the USA and help us vote your ass out of office in '20.

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  • DanK
    09/29/2017
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    Permanently rescind this antiquated law!

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  • Mindful
    09/29/2017
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    Permanent Waiver...better yet Repeal this anachronistic measure. ‘Let competition reign’, they usually shout. There are no German U Boats to fear.

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  • Rj
    10/01/2017
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    Repeal the Jones Act now. And send more troops to help PR during their recovery!

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  • Alaskafirst
    09/29/2017
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    If you permanently repeal the Jones act every major ship builder in the US will close or move overseas. Make China great!

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  • Pamela
    09/28/2017
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    The Jones Act wasn't a problem when Harvey & Irma hit the Texas and Florida those Americans vote. But the Island Americans are African Americans. This is a Jim Crow act.

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  • Jody
    09/28/2017
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    Repeal the Jones Act! Help Puerto Rico! It's America

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  • Laura
    09/29/2017
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    Support the repeal of the jones act! While mainland USA has multiple options for delivery our island commonwealths are held hostage to this special interest group. This will bring competition and hopefully cheaper prices for those citizens

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  • Bluewitsend
    09/28/2017
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    I must revise my initial comment. It seemed at first discouraging how long it has taken to waive the Jones act. They realized immediately it had to be done on the mainland for Harvey but seemingly feet were dragged for Porto Rico. In listening to homeland security advisor Tom Bossert I feel more confident that he understands the immediate situation and doing whatever is necessary to manage relief efforts. Distribution through the devastation is a paramount problem. He seems very coherent and knowledgeable about why and how management is or is not progressing. And, he is willing to fix it and listen to the governor and mayors of Porto Rico as to what is needed. We will see in the near future if help is starting to be coordinated properly and competently for the people of Porto Rico during this crisis.

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  • verymary
    09/29/2017
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    Too little! Too late!

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  • BeStrong
    09/28/2017
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    It's time to set the 'rules' aside (not for 10 days) and get feet and logistics on the ground and in the air. Stop posing for the camera Mr Trump and go after this with 'NFL' fervor. Only 3% of container contents have been dispersed (source CNN 9/28). Get moving Get serious and take care of our fellow Americans.

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  • Gfeiste
    10/02/2017
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    Again we bow down to corporations. Repeal the Jones Act and allow the people of Puerto Rico to rebuild. This takes years, not days. Stop with the greed!

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  • Suzanne
    09/30/2017
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    Repeal the Jones act permanently for Puerto Rico!

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  • Yarelys
    09/29/2017
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    Hello, I'm a PuertoRican living in Phoenix, AZ. As you may know, I'm an american too and my island is passing through the worst period In it's history. I don't think I have to say much. There have been a lot of news coverage talking specifically about cabotage laws. Thanks to that, a lot of US Citizens and citizens of the world finally found out about the unfair and archaic Jones Act. However, in PR we have been trying to fight against this law for many years. But now, more than ever, its elimination is necessary. People in PR are in dire need. Is a shame that people have to beg for help in a moment of obvious crisis. It seems logic, but of course, after gaining power there are just a few politicians who actually keep their feet on the ground, they listen and act "for the people and by the people". Because the people made possible their election, plain and simple. PR needs H E L P, ASAP! We are tired of hearing the same rhetoric. Is a shame that the powerful nation in the world keeps abusing of my island and other territories such as Guam. As you also may know, Greed is a sin, and in US almost every politician keeps repeating "God bless America". Then, put your christianity and selfless effort to help. Is the least you can do.

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