Before going to Florida to see some of the damage from Hurricane Irma, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the case for Congress approving tax reform was even stronger now, as a way to generate new economic growth after two major hurricanes struck the United States in recent weeks, causing billions of dollars in losses.
"They were very big and very powerful," Mr. Trump said of Hurricane Irma and Harvey, as he met with a bipartisan group of moderate House lawmakers, pressing the case for tax reform.
"Because of that, more than ever, we now need great tax reform and great tax cuts," the President added, as urged Democrats to join his push for the first major tax reform effort since 1986.
Meanwhile, the scope of the damage in Florida continued to grow on Wednesday - not just for people who had lost their homes and businesses to winds and floods - but also for an economic staple of Florida, the citrus industry, and other agriculture interests.
"Loss of life and home are of greatest concern," said Florida Agriculture Commissioners Adam Putnam. "But it's clear that our crops have suffered serious losses from Hurricane Irma, too."
Photographic evidence from the heart of citrus country confirmed that, with acres under water, and flood waters still blocking major roads in the agricultural interior of Florida.
"And the images we're seeing out there - obviously terrible losses in the Keys and flooding in Jacksonville - let's not forget about agriculture, a cornerstone of our economy," in Florida, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
"They're going to need a lot of help, or we're going to lose the citrus industry in Florida, and we can't let that happen," Rubio said.
Along with disaster relief for Florida growers, Rubio and fellow Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) have continued to ask the feds for a variety of disaster relief, including:
+ The feds picking up a higher share of the costs for public assistance and debris removal
+ More federal help with roads and bridges that were damaged by Irma's winds and floods
+ Senators Nelson and Rubio have asked the Small Business Administration to send officials to the state to help with disaster aid applications
+ The Senators also want expedited action on a request by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for a major disaster declaration.
+ Rubio also asked the IRS and Education Department to grant specific relief to Florida taxpayers and students
+ State officials have also asked the feds for more help to get gasoline supplies into the state, which remain low in hard-hit areas.
Asked about federal disaster relief resources, the White House on Wednesday said it was too early to know how much more money the Congress needed to approve - not only to cover damages from Irma, but also Hurricane Harvey.
"We're still in the recovery efforts right now, and until we get a little bit further into the process, it would be premature to put those estimates out there," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Congress last week approved $15.3 billion in new disaster aid resources; officials have said FEMA will need extra money in the months ahead, but no official request has been made as yet by the Trump Administration.
Mr. Trump was scheduled on Thursday to fly first to Fort Myers, Florida, and then to Naples, where he will visit some of the areas damaged by Irma.