Kaine among US senators visiting Puerto Rico to survey damage, relief

Tim Kaine speaks with 8News Reporter Evanne Armour the day before he leaves to survey the damage in Puerto Rico.

WASHINGTON (AP/WRIC) – A bipartisan group of five senators will travel to Puerto Rico Saturday to survey damage from Hurricane Maria and monitor relief efforts.

The hurricane has killed at least 34 people and most residents are still without electricity.

Democratic lawmakers participating in the trip are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Cory Gardner of Colorado will also make the trip. The Department of Homeland Security is coordinating the visit.

“Members of Congress have been anxious to go to Puerto Rico to see the extent of the damage because we have to come up with an emergency relief package just like we did for Texas and Florida,” Kaine told 8News Reporter Evanne Armour.

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens just like Virginians or Texans or Floridians.”

The government is spending almost $200 million a day for emergency hurricane response. Lawmakers in the coming weeks will likely consider a $29 billion disaster aid package to pay for recovery efforts and federal flood insurance claims.

Kaine called the devastation in Puerto Rico ‘catastrophic’ and said the budget committee would be working on a major budget deal between now and the end of December.

“I want to make sure that the resources that we are devoting toward this emergency relief are sufficient,” Kaine said.

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