Trump's remarks on Thursday cap those he said while visiting the island on October 3 when he said Puerto Rico's hurricane wasn't a "real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina and that response to relief efforts were "throwing our budget a little out of whack". Congressional leaders of both political parties defended the need to send resources to the US territory, which was devastated by two hurricanes this summer.
FEMA says there are now some 19,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members - including more than 1,400 FEMA personnel - working in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Quoting former CBS News reporter Sheryl Attkisson and Puerto Rico's governor in a tweet, Trump said the territory's "electric and infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes" and passed the buck to Congress to "decide how much to spend".
Cruz's comments were likely in response to early morning tweets Thursday from the president, where he said Congress needs to act quickly to provide relief because "FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been unbelievable (under the most hard circumstances) in P.R. forever!"
House Speaker Paul Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation visiting Puerto Rico on Friday, according to the speaker's office. She told reporters, "there is interest in the United States establishing itself as no first use, no first nuclear use".
The Environmental Protection Agency, in an email Thursday (Oct 12) to reporters about its relief efforts, notes that it has received reports of people trying to drink potentially unsafe Superfund water, from wells that were sealed to avoid human exposure to toxins: "There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste "Superfund" sites in Puerto Rico".
The island was in financial peril before the storms Maria and Irma hit.
Still, a separate Republican source who has been in touch with the administration on relief efforts in Puerto Rico questioned whether the President has a firm grasp on what his own administration is doing on the island. A federal judge is presiding over the island's debt restructuring under a bankruptcy-like legal framework approved by Congress a year ago, known as Promesa.
The president said last week that "we will not rest" until Puerto Rico has recovered from Maria.
White House chief of staff John Kelly also touched on Puerto Rico at a press conference Thursday, saying Trump's tweet was "exactly accurate", considering they would not be there forever. "We're all Americans and we owe them what they need".
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz accused President Donald Trump Thursday of condemning the Puerto Rican people to "a slow death" for what she characterizes as an act of "genocide". Mr. Trump has criticized the mayor over what he described as her "complaints" and "poor leadership ability".
"Your tweets and comments just show desperation and underscore the inadequacy of your government's response to this humanitarian crisis", Ms. Cruz said in the statement. "It is not that you do not get it, it is that you are incapable of empathy and frankly simply can not get the job done".
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Thursday on legislation that would include $18.7 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund and $16 billion for debt relief for the National Flood Insurance Program. Some conservative Republicans are expected to oppose the bill, balking at paying for disaster relief without cutting the federal budget elsewhere.