GOP Puerto Rico Debt Bill Faces Pushback


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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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Democrats said they won’t support the House Committee On Natural Resources’ draft legislation that creates an oversight board and allows Puerto Rico to restructure its debt.

The Tuesday proposal would allow the five-person board, which would be part of the island’s government, to conduct audits and increase transparency. The legislation was praised by House Speaker [crscore]Paul Ryan[/crscore] for providing the island, which faces $70 billion in debt, with tools to handle its financial crisis without a bailout.

Democrats have been critical of the idea, saying it is an overreach into the Puerto Rican government’s authority, as it would be able to implement a fiscal plan or budget “if the governor or legislative authority fail to do so.” Republicans say the proposal is necessary to guide the territory back on track to fiscal stability.

“The sweeping powers of the oversight board proposed in Republicans’ current discussion draft are far from what Democrats can support,” House Minority Leader [crscore]Nancy Pelosi[/crscore] said in a statement, adding she applauds the committees efforts to try and find a bipartisan compromise on the bill. “In its current form, this board would exert undue and undemocratic control over Puerto Rico’s government and residents.”

House Minority Whip [crscore]Steny Hoyer[/crscore] said the control board could undermine the commonwealth’s democratic process.

“I hope Chairman Bishop and Committee Republicans will work with us over the coming days to finalize legislative language that addresses this and other shortcomings in the current draft so that we can move forward with bringing bipartisan legislation to the Floor when the House returns to session,” Hoyer said

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla referred to the proposal as “shameful and degrading,” the New York Times reports.

Criticisms have also come from the Right. The Republican Study Committee denounced the draft saying it thinks changing the rules for the island is “irresponsible” and the “wrong approach.”

Changes to the legislation are expected to be made before the final version is introduced when Congress returns from recess in April.

“The framework was developed through broad-based collaboration with Members of Congress in both parties, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, a range of economic, business and market stakeholders, and with engagement from Puerto Rico’s elected leadership,” Committee Chairman [crscore]Rob Bishop[/crscore] said in a statement upon its release. “This discussion draft will change. We are releasing it now to encourage feedback, so people can respond to the draft proposal, not a supposition of its contents.”

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