ROSA DELAURO
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) criticized the Trump administration’s response to the hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico in an event hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) condemned the Trump administration’s response to the post-hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico in a question-and-answer session hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service on Wednesday.

DeLauro questioned the White House’s delay in sending relief efforts to Puerto Rico and encouraged attendees to bring attention to the issue to spur action.

“These are American citizens,” DeLauro said. “Why did it take so long to visit Puerto Rico? Why did it take so long to waive the Jones Act? We ought to be standing up and screaming from the rafters. That is the only way that we will turn things around.”

The Jones Act limits shipping to U.S. ports to exclusively American-made ships staffed by American crews, preventing foreign aid from reaching Puerto Rico in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

DeLauro, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1991, also discussed the U.S. social safety net, the subject of her 2017 book, “The Least Among Us: Waging Battle for the Vulnerable.”

She said the social safety net is more than a series of programs — Medicare, food stamps, unemployment insurance and minimum wage, among others — as it also reflects American society and values.

“For me it is not just a collection of programs. But rather, it is a reflection of the values of our country,” DeLauro said. “It is about our responsibility — a social responsibility — but a moral responsibility to one another, and that’s particularly in times of need,”

DeLauro said the current administration and Republican Congressional leadership are intrinsically hostile to the idea of a social safety net, preferring a system that would rely on private institutions instead.

“The atmosphere in the House now is not conducive because of the fundamental view that the government should not be playing a role in people’s lives and being there as a safety net,” DeLauro said. “The belief is that nonprofits should take care of it and religious organizations should take care of it, and that we should jettison the government’s role in these things.”

She said the ideological shift against social programs has been discernible since 1994, with Republican leaders in Congress like former House
Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and current Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seeking to shift the burden of programs like Medicaid to the states.

DeLauro also noted that her Republican colleagues have not made concerted efforts to repeal the program altogether.

DeLauro reflected on the influence of her parents’ service in the city council of New Haven, Conn., on her views on social security and the role of government in improving community living standards. She recalled that representatives would reach out and listen to the community and address their needs.

“They didn’t write a healthcare bill. They didn’t write a crime bill or a transportation bill,” DeLauro said. “What they did was to minister to their community if they needed help with social security, immigration, or getting their son or daughter a job.”

DeLauro said that these lessons have been at the core of her service in the House of Representatives.

“Whatever it was that helped people make their way through the system, that’s what they made real in our community. And I took those lessons to the House of Representatives,” DeLauro said.

Though she acknowledged that many challenges lie ahead for the social security net, she encouraged the audience to mobilize and advocate for these social programs while reaffirming her commitment to a battle she has fought for more than two decades.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas,” DeLauro said. “This is what I have worked to defend for 25 years. A vision for America that I want to expand so that all Americans can support each other in difficult times and share in prosperity.”

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