Despite the partial government shutdown, which is now the longest in United States history, 30 Democratic congressional lawmakers flew to Puerto Rico this weekend for a winter retreat to vacation and meet with more than 100 lobbyists and corporate executives.
What are the details?
According to the Washington Examiner, 30 Democratic lawmakers — including their families and chiefs of staff — flew to Puerto Rico on a chartered 737 jet on Friday, where they planned to meet with 109 lobbyists and corporate executives, attend several parties, and see a special showing of the hit Broadway play “Hamilton.”
Those attending the retreat, hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, also partook in some business, including attending a roundtable to discuss Hurricane Maria cleanup.
“We are excited for you to join us for CHC BOLD PAC’s 2019 Winter Retreat in San Juan, Puerto Rico! Each year, this retreat serves as a way for our CHC BOLD PAC Members and friends in the D.C. community to come together to escape the cold and discuss our shared priorities for a stronger and more prosperous country,” a memo for the event said, according to the Examiner.
Lobbyists and corporate executives from Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, R.J. Reynolds, Verizon, Microsoft, Intel, and PhRMA were in attendance, in addition to representatives from major unions like the National Education Association.
Officials from BOLD PAC did not reveal which lawmakers made the trip. But, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was spotted on a beach by a Fox News producer on Saturday:
Spotted: Sen. Bob Menendez on the beach at a resort in Puerto Rico on Day 22 of the partial government shutdown. Reports say dozens of Dems are in PR for the CHC BOLD PAC winter retreat — including meetings on Maria cleanup, and a party with PR’s “Hamilton” cast. pic.twitter.com/6FaBYKPo4L
— David McAlpine (@DavidMcAlpine) January 12, 2019
Retreat participants stayed at a seaside resort where rooms go for $429 per night, the Examiner reported.
Additionally, the chartered jet carried just 250 pounds of donated medical supplies.
What did the PAC say?
Given the situation in Washington, the trip has garnered negative attention. However, BOLD PAC chairman Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) said the criticism is unfounded.
He told the Examiner in a statement:
House Democrats voted to open the government multiple times; sadly, Senate Republicans and President Trump are continuing to put partisan politics ahead of our country, forcing the government to remain shut down. As our Bold PAC members make their way to Puerto Rico for this important weekend — the largest contingency of House Democrats to visit Puerto Rico where they’ll be hearing from Commonwealth and local elected officials about the ongoing recovery efforts — we will be closely monitoring the situation in Washington. If there is any progress by Senate Republicans or the White House to reopen the federal government, then we will act accordingly.
This gathering was planned months before Trump decided to shut down the federal government for his unnecessary and costly border wall. The purpose of hosting Bold PAC’s retreat in Puerto Rico is to see and hear from the more than 3.5 million American citizens who have been working tirelessly to rebuild their lives on the Island after Hurricane Maria. This remains a national priority, and it is necessary for us to be there and honor our fellow American children, seniors, veterans, men and women.
Lawmakers are expected to return Monday evening.
Author: Chris Enloe