(House of Representatives - October 04, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 159 (Wednesday, October 4, 2017)]
[Page H7756]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                       ASSISTANCE FOR PUERTO RICO

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Illinois (Mr. Gutierrez) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. GUTIERREZ. Mr. Speaker, I have received a lot of calls in my 
office in the last few days. Some are offering help to the people of 
Puerto Rico, but many are from moms and dads hoping to hear from their 
children, from children hoping to hear from their moms and dads, from 
grandchildren worried about an elderly grandparent who is still in 
Puerto Rico.
  Two weeks after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, there are people who 
have not been heard from and people who are calling for help, but have 
not received it yet.
  I have had Members of Congress, State and local officials, and people 
from all over the country call me to tell me about someone who needs 
help getting out of Puerto Rico. Their mom is still in Puerto Rico, or 
a cousin is on dialysis and has not been heard from, and can I help 
them get to a hospital on the mainland.
  These calls are heartbreaking because they are all about U.S. 
citizens who should be treated better 2 weeks after a calamity, even a 
devastating calamity like Hurricane Maria.
  Most of the calls have been from my constituents in Chicago. Here is 
one example that was summarized to me by one of my staff members in 
  She said:

       Congressman, I received a call from--I won't give her 
     name--she lives here in Illinois, but has an aunt who is in a 
     hospital in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, who is very ill with 
     cancer. She is requesting assistance from our office to get 
     her aunt out of Puerto Rico so she can receive treatment in 

  Mr. Speaker, if you take a look at my Facebook page, you will see the 
same sort of thing.
  Manny writes:

       The municipality of Arecibo, a coastal town in the northern 
     part of Puerto Rico, has not received help. I spoke to my 
     family there via text and she said the situation there is 

  Yanny writes:

       Please don't forget Aibonito. The people there are hungry, 
     thirsty, and there are many sick who need medicine. Thank 

  I just spoke 10 minutes ago to Maria in Chicago. She said:

       Congressman, I haven't heard from my parents in Cayey.

  Mr. Speaker, it is tragic. These messages break my heart. I don't 
know what to tell people, except to say that help may be on the way 
soon. Of course, that is not good enough.
  I have no explanation for why it is not already there. It certainly 
is not the fault of the brave men and women who work for FEMA and the 
Armed Forces. I spent a lot of time with them in Puerto Rico while I 
was there, and they are working hard. They are tired. They are facing 
the difficult task of finding and feeding people.
  From what I saw in Puerto Rico this last weekend, what I am hearing 
from my constituents, and what I am hearing from my family and friends, 
we need to seriously ramp up the use of full capacity and capabilities 
of the U.S. Government, including the U.S. military, to rescue people.
  They don't need paper towels tossed at them like T-shirts at a sports 
arena. They need helicopters, bridges, cell towers, and generators. 
This is why I was, frankly, horrified by our President's performance 
yesterday on the island.
  He said that Puerto Rico was making his budget out of whack, as if 
the monetary cost of saving lives is what we should be focusing on, or 
that an agenda that cuts taxes is really as important as saving 
people's lives in danger.

  From the beginning, he has focused on the cost of saving Puerto 
Ricans, not the moral duty to save them. He has essentially said that 
Puerto Ricans are sitting around looking for handouts and not helping 
themselves, which is not at all what I saw in Puerto Rico this past 
weekend, Mr. Speaker.
  Yesterday, the President said we should all feel proud because only 
16 people have been listed as officially killed by Hurricane Maria in 
Puerto Rico.
  Really? We should feel proud?
  He said that a real tragedy like Hurricane Katrina killed many more 
people. Thousands, he said.
  So I guess he is saying: Hey, only 16. Why the big fuss?
  That number doubled overnight, by the way. Everyone understands that 
it will go up further still when contact is made with all parts of the 
  I look at it a little differently. To me, it is almost like Hurricane 
Maria posed a test to the United States of America and to our 
President. The hurricane said: I am going to take 34 souls. That is 34 
too many, but that is what I am going to take. Now I am leaving it up 
to you, America, Mr. President, and you the people in Congress to tell 
me what you will do to prevent that number from going any higher. Are 
you getting medicine to the sick? Are you evacuating the aunt with 
cancer or the cousin on dialysis? Are you providing safe drinking water 
and flights to safety?
  Mr. Speaker, I don't think today's body count is the right metric to 
look at, but, rather, we should be challenging ourselves to make sure 
it doesn't go higher.
  The most serious event in Puerto Rico's modern history may not 
qualify as a significant disaster to our President, but let us not sit 
back and allow the body count to change the President's mind. We just 
can't wait that long.