GOPers Introduce Bill To Permanently Waive Jones Act For Puerto Rico

Gerald Herbert/AP

Two Republican senators introduced legislation Thursday that would permanently waive a decades-old shipping restriction law for Puerto Rico.

The waiver would help aid hurricane recovery efforts and would also give the island the “sustainable relief it needs to rebuild.”

President Donald Trump granted the U.S. territory a 10-day waiver to the Jones Act Thursday morning, but Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would like to see the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory exempt from the law permanently.

The Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, restricts shipping between American ports to American ships with American crews only, which ends up making it twice as expensive to ship things from the U.S. to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from other foreign ports in the world, according to a joint statement from McCain’s and Lee’s offices.

McCain said he welcomed the President’s 10-day waiver, but said it was “insufficient to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild.”

“Our legislation would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, an antiquated, protectionist law that has driven up costs and crippled Puerto Rico’s economy,” McCain said in a statement. “For years I have fought to fully repeal the Jones Act, which has long outlived its purpose to the benefit of special interests.”

Lee said it was “far time to repeal” the law, which he said gives “foreign corporations an edge over American businesses and makes disaster response harder.”

This is the fourth time McCain has introduced legislation to end the Jones Act since 2010 and the second time he’s done it this year. Earlier this week, he sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking them to waive the law to help with hurricane recovery efforts.

Trump indicated Wednesday he may not lift the Jones Act for Puerto Rico because “a lot of shippers” don’t want it waived, despite the fact that he lifted the restrictions when Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. earlier this month.

Correction: This post originally referred to Puerto Rico as a “country.” It is a territory of the U.S.