Another Round of Lobbying Efforts Concludes
SAN JUAN — While Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and a group of government officials knocked on doors of various Congress members on Thursday, the second-highest-ranking member of the Senate, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), epitomized the stiff resistance among the GOP toward granting the island debt-restructuring authority.
Speaking on the upper chamber’s floor Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, lashed at recent bills filed by a group of Democratic lawmakers this week, calling it “repackaged ideas” and “a Super Chapter 9” that would give Puerto Rico “unprecedented” treatment.
“The group concluded the round of meetings convinced that Congress will assume its responsibility and act in a coherent and comprehensive manner,” La Fortaleza stated late Thursday.
Earlier during the day, the governor met with Sen. Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Mass.), both of whom introduced with various other Democratic lawmakers the legislation criticized by Hatch. He also met on Thursday with Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, one of the two committees tasked by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with drafting legislation before the end of the month that would tackle the Puerto Rico fiscal crisis.
García Padilla had met the day earlier with Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.), who are also members of Natural Resources.
Rounding up García Padilla’s agenda on Thursday, he talked to the House Chief Deputy Whip for Republicans, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), and Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-Wa.), the highest ranking GOP woman in Congress and chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. On Wednesday he held meetings with
Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority President Alberto Lázaro, Fortaleza Chief of Staff Grace Santana, Office of Management & Budget Director Luis Cruz, Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza, Industrial Development Co. Director Antonio Medina and Education Secretary Rafael Román traveled with the governor. While a statement initially included mayors as part of the delegation, none were mentioned in the press statement.
The group of officials visited the offices of Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Grace Napolitano (D-Cal.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Tom McClintock (R-Cal.), Lois Capps (D-Cal.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s delegate in Congress.
With the support of the U.S. Treasury and a vast majority of Democrats in both chambers, the García Padilla administration is urging Congress for broad debt-restructuring tools, paired with increased federal healthcare funding and economic development incentives — all of which would allow the island to return to solid footing.
Despite talks, the Republican side of the aisle remains unfazed, while leaning more toward establishing strong fiscal oversight. The administration continues to stress that any fiscal oversight must respect the island’s self-governance.
The governor is expected to be back on the island on Friday.