by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalba
Washington, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Committee is holding its third hearing on Puerto Rico’s financial and economic crisis tomorrow. A representative from the U.S. Treasury Department will testify and present the Obama Administration’s assessment of the Commonwealth’s debt crisis. Democrats are calling for the Committee to begin bipartisan negotiations and draft a legislation that outlines a responsible solution to Puerto Rico’s crisis by March 31, the deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
On Oct. 21, 2015, the Obama Administration unveiled a detailed legislative outline to help Puerto Rico address its serious fiscal challenges. While the Administration has worked extensively with Puerto Rican officials to find solutions to the Commonwealth’s fiscal crisis, Congress has authority to provide Puerto Rico with the tools required to lay the foundation for the Commonwealth’s recovery, and Congress should act.
Last summer Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, declared that the commonwealth’s $72 billion in debt “is not payable.” This past week, the Puerto Rican government announced that “it had substantial doubt about its ability to operate in the long term” after the Government Development Bank signaled that it is likely to miss its next bond payment.
“As we enter tomorrow’s hearing on Puerto Rico, I want my colleagues to remember that we are dealing with people’s lives here – parents, children, teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers – all U.S. citizens,” said House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “The 3.5 million Puerto Ricans living on the island have endured more than a decade of austerity and deserve economic relief. Following tomorrow’s hearing we should immediately start discussions on drafting bipartisan legislation that can be reported to the floor without further delay. The clock is ticking; March 31 will be here before we know it.”
“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico continue to face a contracting economy and an unsustainable debt burden,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Only Congress can empower Puerto Rico with the meaningful tools to restructure its public debt and restore the economic stability necessary to create jobs and a brighter economic future. I urge my Republican colleagues to act expeditiously in enacting a comprehensive and bipartisan solution that brings urgent relief to the people of Puerto Rico.”
“I join in calling on House Republicans to begin bipartisan negotiations on legislation to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico,” stated Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer. “Puerto Rico is an integral part of the United States of America, and like other jurisdictions who have found themselves in deep fiscal trouble, we ought to allow the island to restructure its debt. House Democrats will continue to push for commonsense legislation to confront the financial crisis in Puerto Rico, and I am hopeful both parties can reach agreement on a path forward before Speaker Ryan’s March 31 deadline.”
“Congress has a responsibility to every American citizen to make sure we don’t get in the way of their prosperity,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-CA). “The American citizens of Puerto Rico have been waiting for months for Congress to act. American citizens can’t afford a do-nothing Congress.”
“What’s happening in Puerto Rico is not only a financial crisis, but a humanitarian one,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “It is critical the Committee move forward swiftly with meaningful, broad based legislation that allows the Commonwealth to restructure its debt, without imposing further hardship on the people of Puerto Rico who have already endured major cuts to public services. Congress has a moral obligation to act.”
“Puerto Rico can’t solve its economic problems alone and only Congress can take the necessary action at the federal level,” said Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY). “The island is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis and more than 3.5 million American citizens are suffering the consequences of Congress’ inaction. I trust tomorrow’s hearing will allow us to reach some consensus and make significant progress in addressing this crisis. The Speaker’s deadline is approaching- and it is time to act.”
“The people of Puerto Rico want and deserve respect from the Congress and want to know that their opinions, their aspirations, and their lives will be taken seriously by Congress and by Washington,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL).
“Puerto Rico is facing a financial and humanitarian crisis, and Congress has both a duty and moral responsibility to act,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus. “The people of Puerto Rico are a part of our American family, and they deserve immediate action by their Congress. I join my colleagues in urging House Republicans to make this issue a priority.”