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Rubio Visits Puerto Rico, Advocating Directly to Pence for Hurricane Aid

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) flew to Puerto Rico on Monday to survey hurricane damage and recovery efforts in advance of a meeting today with Vice President Mike Pence to advocate for the U.S. territory.

Rubio was accompanied by the island’s delegate to Congress, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, who thanked the Florida lawmaker for being “our voice in the Senate.”

During a briefing at the San Juan Convention Center, Rubio stressed that “on this island live the loved ones of American citizens who gave their lives for our country.”

“On this island live the loved ones and American citizens who at this very moment are risking their lives for the safety and security of our nation. It is our commitment to do everything within our power to ensure that the response to this hurricane is the same as it would be in any other territory or state of this great nation,” the senator said.

Rubio advocated responding to Hurricane Maria — as well as damage from the previous hurricane, Irma, as well as the longstanding financial storm in Puerto Rico — “in appropriate way by providing not just the resources, but the flexibility for local authorities to be able to respond by exploring the possibility of low interest loans for the territory to be able to respond to the significant cost needed for this recovery, and ultimately to rebuild Puerto Rico stronger than ever.”

“If we’re going to rebuild, and we will rebuild, let’s do so in a way that’s modern and resistant, for this will not be the last storm that impacts this island,” he added. “That is the message we seek to come here and learn more about so that we can return tonight and begin the hard work in Washington to make that happen. It’s our commitment to do everything possible to assist.”

Rubio and González were scheduled to meet with Pence at the Capitol this afternoon.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello warned on MSNBC this morning that the hurricane aftermath could “unravel” into a humanitarian crisis.

“Right now we don’t have power. Certainly it’s been a devastating event here in Puerto Rico. The infrastructure has suffered severely,” Rossello said. “My petition is, if we want to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the United States where 3.5 million U.S. citizens, proud U.S. citizens live, we need to take swift action in Congress to have a robust package for Puerto Rico, give us flexibility and allow us to execute properly.”

About 60 percent of the island does not have potable water, he reported.

“We’ve collaborated with the administration,” he said. “But this is unprecedented. We’re going to need more help.”