Latest News

On Senate Floor, Rubio Discusses Efforts to Secure Funding Priorities for Florida, Puerto Rico

Feb 7, 2018 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Speaking on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed his efforts to secure his funding priorities for Florida and Puerto Rico in the latest disaster supplemental.
Rubio’s speech can be watched here. A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
Washington, D.C.
February 7, 2018
RUBIO: I must say the ability to work with Senator Nelson on this is invaluable to have two senators from two different parties singing from the same song sheet about the priorities that are critical to our state. And what’s unique about the storm and disaster relief, is that the impact on Florida was not just the impact on Florida. It was also the impact on Puerto Rico. The impact on Puerto Rico has had an impact obviously on Puerto Rico but also on Florida. Senator Nelson touched upon that a moment ago.
When the House passed its relief package at the end of December, it had a lot of good things in it. The president came out with his proposal. It had some good things but it needed work. Then the House took it. The House added a few things to it. But over the last two months, it’s been the ability to work here in the Senate, not in front of the cameras, not obviously through a series of press conferences, but the way legislation is put together and the way we were able to work together and our offices worked together, that we were able to come out with a concise, unified position on the needs of both Florida and Puerto Rico.  
Working with the leadership of the Democratic Party on his side and the Republican on ours. And I’ve got to tell you, in a place where it’s very hard to get 60% of what you want and that’s a win, when you start to go through some of the items that are going to be in this relief package, it would be hard to complain. With perhaps a small exception here or there, virtually all of the things that are critical for disaster relief for Florida and, to a large extent as well for Puerto Rico, are going to be included in this. I think while a lot of us are very concerned about how long it took, we should have done this four weeks ago, three weeks ago, there are other reasons why.
It wasn’t disaster relief that was holding it up. It was the other issues at play that were holding it up. In fact, this was being held back until other things were agreed on. But now we are going to be able to move forward. While no one wants to have a hurricane and no one wants to have a natural disaster, I think this is a response that we should be happy about. And I think a testament to the sorts of things that we can achieve here in the Senate when we can put aside our differences on other issues and work together on this.

Jenniffer Gonzalez, the Resident Commissioner, basically the member of Congress representing Puerto Rico in the House, is an extraordinary advocate for Puerto Rico. Not a good one, not a great one – an extraordinary one. She’s tireless, nonstop. I’m talking about Sunday evenings, Sunday nights, early Monday morning. Constant work. Constant. An incredible partner in this endeavor. And the things that she’s been able to achieve because when we got an agreement on a lot of this in the Senate, we had to go to Jennifer to ask her for her help to make sure the leadership in the House would be on board. And the respect the House leadership has for her was instrumental.

The Medicaid cliff that Puerto Rico faces. Last year we were able to fill that gap for one year. This does it for two years through funding a 100% called FMAP. They can focus on the other issues without having to worry about that. There’s money in disaster relief to repair infrastructure, money to repair hospitals and community health centers.

Help to repair clinics that were serving women, infants, and children; HHS funding; transportation funding, particularly improvements to the FAA and the facilities at the airport; the federal highways. Everything that was important is there.  

We’ve come to the floor multiple times to talk about the need to help our citrus industry – Florida’s signature crop. This has the money to do so. This will be an incredibly large effort for the Secretary of Agriculture to administer this. But I know I speak for Florida’s growers when I say that this is important work. Feeding our nation is important work.

In addition to expedite the completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike, which is critically important to people living in the Glades community just south of Lake Okeechobee, this expedites that. This wasn’t part of the budgets at the beginning. This is a project that has already been authorized, but the ability to move that forward is critical because it’s going to help free up funds and time for all the other important projects with regards to restoring the Everglades. And by the way, preventing the overflow of Lake Okeechobee, which could kill people.

There’s some language in there, modeled after a bill that I had filed. It gives the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response direct hiring authority to ensure that HHS has the necessary emergency medical personnel to respond to another natural disaster, because the hurricane season is about five months away.

We have a massive debris problem, particularly in Monroe County. These canals in the Florida Keys that still have refrigerators, lawn furniture, sunken boats. This has money to help clean that. Local governments have run out of money. They can’t do it.

Watch the entire speech here