U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson defends FEMA after Puerto Rico visit, says electrical grid repairs are “No. 1 priority”

Senator Ron Johnson

MILWAUKEE -- U.S. Senator Ron Johnson is defending the federal government's response in Puerto Rico after visiting the hurricane-ravaged island over the weekend, but warns of a crisis if the electrical grid isn't repaired.

Johnson was part of a 10-member delegation of Republicans and Democrats who spend Saturday, October 7th in the U.S. territory assessing the damage after Hurricane Maria ripped through in late September.

The lawmakers got briefings from Federal Emergency Management Administration officials and local elected leaders. Only 11 percent of the island has power, lawmakers said.

"All of our efforts have got to be to stand up that electrical grid, or else what you will see is a growing crisis ," Johnson said on a conference call with reporters on Sunday.

Hospitals are running on generators and long lines have formed for ice and other necessities.

Senator Ron Johnson in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

But Johnson said he was expecting to see worse during his visit, which included an aerial tour. He said 70 percent of the island's grocery stores and gas stations are open, and roads to all 78 municipalities are open.

"I was very relieved to see that it wasn't as devastated as I thought it would be," Johnson said. "I think that's first and foremost important to the people of Puerto Rico, to realize that we will not ignore the situation."

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz

Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz continued to blast President Donald Trump's administration's response to the crisis.

"Increasingly painful to understand the American people want to help and the U.S. government does not want to help. We need water!" Yulin Cruz tweeted Sunday.

FEMA's Acting Director Brock Long responded by telling ABC News, "We filtered out the mayor a long time ago" and called her complaints "political noise."

During Sunday's conference call, Johnson was asked about the back-and-forth, and he defended FEMA and Long.

FEMA's Acting Director Brock Long

Puerto Rico

"He's got a big job and he's got to tune out all the bickering, because there's a lot of political bickering from all corners, and he's just got co concentrate on the task at hand," Johnson said.

By Sunday night, President Trump had taken notice of the frustration on the island.

"Nobody could have done what I've done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation," the president tweeted. "So much work!"

Johnson said House Speaker Paul Ryan would soon visit the U.S. territory.

One of the Democratic senators on the trip said Congress needed to develop a long-term plan for Puerto Rico's debt crisis, which would've come to a head without the storm. But the hurricane only made the finance problem worse because of the costs of rebuilding.

"We are on the verge of failing Puerto Rico," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut. "My feeling is, Americans are failing fellow Americans."

Senator Ron Johnson in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump in Puerto Rico