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Why Sen. Scott blames Schumer for stalled Hurricane Michael relief

More than 200 days have passed since Hurricane Michael hit Florida with devastating Category 5 force -- but a corresponding disaster relief bill is still yet to be passed. Amna Nawaz talks to Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who was the state’s governor during the storm, about the “frustrating” months of gridlock, funding Puerto Rico's recovery and why Scott blames Sen. Chuck Schumer for the stalemate.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A fight over disaster relief funding between Congress and the president has been brewing for months.

    But, as Amna Nawaz tells us, the battle may reach a turning point in the coming days.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, President Trump and members of Congress have struggled to agree on a disaster aid bill that would address the needs of several states across the country, as well as Puerto Rico.

    One of those states is Florida. Its Panhandle community was devastated by Hurricane Michael seven months ago, but the state needs more funding to continue its recovery. A relief package is currently stalled in the Senate, as senators attempt to find a solution that President Trump will sign before Memorial Day weekend.

    To talk to us about where things stand, I'm joined by Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida. He was the state's governor when Hurricane Michael made landfall.

    Senator Scott, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks for making the time.

    I want to ask you now about that bill the House passed. It was a $17 billion disaster relief package last week. It's now up to the Senate, as I mentioned, to see it through. Will you vote for it?

  • Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.:

    Well, let's see what ends up on the Senate floor.

    Here's what's frustrating. We're 218 days since Hurricane Michael hit our state. It was devastating. It was a Category 5. And to put things in perspective, after Katrina, I think it took something like 10 days for a disaster relief bill to be done.

    Andrew, the last Category 5 to hit our country — it was in South Florida — was 34 days. Sandy took 74 days. It's so frustrating that, you know, everybody can't come together and get something done. We all care about our states. We all care about Puerto Rico.

    So I don't know why people can't come together and say, let's put our differences aside and spend our time getting this done. We have to get this done before the Memorial break.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator, would you vote for the bill in its current form?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Well, what I have supported is a bill that, one, has accountability. I don't want to waste any money. But the bill that's in the House, I don't believe it will ever make it to the floor of the Senate.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, what would you want the change about what's in there right now?

    The bill that is right there has funding for Mexico Beach, Panama City. It helps to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base. The thing that has been holding it up is the president's objection to the fact that it also has funding for Puerto Rico. Do you object to that?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Well, first off, let's put it in perspective.

    Here's what's been frustrating to me. Chuck Schumer has basically blocked the bill in the Senate. This is something that I — my first words I said on the Senate floor was about how we have got to take care of Puerto Rico. I went there eight times as governor. I have been there once as a U.S. senator.

    We have got to provide money for Puerto Rico. And we have got to make sure we have accountability. And that's what I proposed. We have to make sure we don't waste the money.

    All the — everybody I talk to in Puerto Rico agrees with me. We don't want to waste any money. We want to get the money to get to the families that have been hurt. And why don't we get this done? But, right now, it's been basically shut down in the Senate by Chuck Schumer.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Senator, the idea that money is being wasted in Puerto Rico is something the president has been saying again and again.

    Right now, it seems as if it is stalled because there is money for Puerto Rico in this bill. What do you say to your constituents who are still waiting for aid money they desperately need because the president doesn't want money to go the Puerto Rico?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Well, what I want is, I want to do the things that are going to help Puerto Rico.

    Step one, I fought to get the $600 million in for the food nutrition program. And then I heard what the president said, so I want it not just for Puerto Rico, but for everyplace else. Let's put the parameters in to make sure that money is not spent and let's get the money out as quickly as we can.

    And that's what I have been pushing in the Senate. But, again, this is something that, for whatever reason, Chuck Schumer has basically shut down any conversation to get something done here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I hear you blaming Chuck Schumer. Do you also blame the president for holding this up?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Well, look, we can pass — we don't have to have the president to pass the bill in the Senate.

    But, you know, Chuck — Senator Shelby has had a bill, it seems like now for months or it seems like since I got up here. And Chuck Schumer will not let the Democrats vote for it.

    Why don't we support our bill and get the House and Senate to sit down and figure out how to work together? We — we — the president doesn't have the opportunity to sign anything until we pass something. So let's passes it and figure out where we are.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you something about some disclosures made earlier this week about two Florida counties that were hacked during the 2016 election.

    The FBI won't publicly disclose which two counties were. Do you know which two they were?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Absolutely.

    I had a briefing yesterday from the FBI. And what I want to understand is what happened. So, as we know, in the Mueller report, they said — I think what they said in that was one county was hacked by the Russians.

    So I want to understand what happened there. And then my opponent in 2018, Bill Nelson, last summer said the Russians were free to move around our election system, they were free to change the voter registration and things like that.

    And at that point, I asked the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. I said, so is any of this was true, because I want to make sure we have — as governor, my job as governor is to make sure we have elections where, if you have a right to vote, I want you to vote, but I don't want there to be any fraud.

    They confirmed, one, that two counties had been hacked. They have said, for national security reasons, that it would be harmful to national security, that they're not going to release the names of those.

    And so, based on law, I can't release those names. I want them — we're — I'm from the Sunshine State. We have got a lot of sunshine laws to disclose things. So I have asked them to do that whenever they — the earliest they can, to release those, but they're not ready to do that right now.

    I — but they also confirmed that what Bill Nelson said, they had no evidence of. They told me that last year. And they confirmed that now, that the Russians and nobody changed the results of 2016 or 2018.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But let me ask you this.

    Voters are obviously hearing this news, and they are worried that enough is not being done to make sure their votes will count. So, what can you tell them now about what you're doing to make sure the same thing doesn't happen in 2020?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Sure.

    So, as a governor, what I did is, I added more cybersecurity experts at the state level. The way it's set up in Florida, we have a state secretary of state's office and, separately, elected local supervisor elections.

    And then we sent money down to our — each of our supervisor elections to make sure they can do the same thing. And then we worked with them to make sure that there was nothing that impacted the elections.

    One thing FBI and Homeland Security said yesterday is that Florida was a great partner of theirs to try to make sure that, you know, one, they — our systems weren't hacked, and, number two, that, to the extent they were, which they said happened in 2016, that it didn't impact the results, which is what they said.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator Scott, we just a minute left, but I want to ask you about immigration.

    The president unveiled a new immigration proposal in the Rose Garden today. In your state, you have over 100,000 dreamers, or DACA recipients, people who were brought here as children.

    There was no protection nor plan for them in the president's proposal today. So, what is your message to those more than 100,000 residents of Florida today?

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Well, we're an immigration state.

    I have been very supportive of making sure that the DACA kids, we take care of them. We also need to have — we have a lot of people with TPS. We need a permanent fix for TPS.

    And, on top of that, we have got to secure our borders. So, we have got to have a package that, in my opinion, one, secures our border to stop the problems we're dealing with. We love legal immigration, but not illegal immigration.

    We're an immigration state. But we have to take care of the DACA kids, and we have to have a permanent fix for TPS.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator Rick Scott for Florida, thank you very much for being with us today.

  • Sen. Rick Scott:

    Thank you.

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