Democrats call for 9/11-style commission to investigate Trump Puerto Rico response

A recent study found the number of deaths in Puerto Rico could surpass 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina combined.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) speaks at a news conference as Jose Serrano (D-NY) looks on on Capitol Hill June 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) speaks at a news conference as Jose Serrano (D-NY) looks on on Capitol Hill June 6, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling for an independent commission to investigate the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria and the storm’s aftermath in Puerto Rico.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) requested an investigation “similar to what we had in 9/11 to examine the death toll, the federal response and how federal agencies such as FEMA may have responded sluggishly based on artificially low numbers.”

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Velazquez vowed to introduce legislation that would lead to the creation of an independent commission — though passing it in the current Republican-controlled Congress will be a challenge.

Other Democrats have called for an investigation into the Trump administration’s treatment of Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastating hurricane, but there has mostly been overwhelming silence from lawmakers on the issue.

A recent study found that the federal estimate of 64 deaths in Puerto Rico might be under-counting by 5,000-plus people.

Despite this, the White House has continued to brag about its response to the storm. “Our entire government leapt into action to coordinate the response along with state and local leaders,” President Trump said during a visit to FEMA on Wednesday. Trump didn’t address the study that estimates the actual death toll could be 70 times higher than the federal estimate.

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On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The federal response, once again, was at a historic proportion” when asked about the federal government’s response during a news conference. On Friday, Trump said the response to Hurricane Maria has been good for FEMA’s “brand.

The New England Journal of Medicine study estimated that at least 4,645 Puerto Ricans died due to the storm. As a point of comparison, 2,997 people were killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and 1,833 people perished during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.