Democratic 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing his colleagues in the upper chamber to vote against the bipartisan Puerto Rico debt legislation introduced in the House last Thursday.
In a four-page letter sent to Senate Democrats Monday, Sanders said the bill takes the wrong approach on getting the island, which faces a $70 billion debt burden, by putting an oversight board he feels is an overreach into the Puerto Rican government’s authority.
The Vermont independent said the control board consists of seven federally-appointed officials, which would be given the authority to oversee the territory’s finances.
“The people of Puerto Rico would not get to choose any members of this board,” he wrote. “The board members do not have to live in Puerto Rico, and no elected official or former elected official from Puerto Rico would be allowed to serve.”
The president would choose the board members from a list submitted by the House speaker.
The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), would also allow members to call hearings and subpoena information and impose criminal penalties if false or misleading information is provided.
Top Democrats including President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and his rival in the Democratic primary Hillary Clinton have come out in support of the bill.
“In my view, we must never give an unelected control board the power to make life and death decisions for the people of Puerto Rico without any meaningful input from them at all,” Sanders continued. “We must not balance Puerto Rico’s budget on the backs of children, senior citizens, the sick and the most vulnerable of Puerto Rico.”
Congressional leadership hope to have the bill passed before the island’s looming $2 billion debt payment in July.
The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a markup on the bill Tuesday.
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