Newly sworn Puerto Rico gov meets with top lawmakers
Resident commissioner says matter of legislative leaders’ hope she be placed in gubernatorial succession line was not brought up
SAN JUAN — Newly sworn Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez’s first meetings Thursday with the Senate president, House speaker and the island’s representative in the U.S. Congress, after the lawmakers had convened with numerous other New Progressive Party (NPP) colleagues and mayors for about four and a half hours, did not yield new insight into their openly expressed desire to have the resident commissioner placed in line for the governor’s office.
While Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez gave no statements when arriving or departing from the meeting at the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González assured before entering and after the meeting that the major concern was addressing the administrative problems in Puerto Rico’s government that have led the federal government to withhold disaster-recovery aid and other federal allocations such as Medicaid funding for the island.
“She is the governor,” González said, “but we also have a reality and there are some great challenges that Puerto Rico has that need to be addressed and those are issues that should not wait three, four, five, six months. Here we have a lot of economic issues, fiscal issues, matters with the economy, recovery matters and federal funds.”
Earlier Thursday, the congresswoman received broad vocal support, during the large meeting held at the Capitol, from party politicians hoping she is nominated secretary of State as a stepping stone into the governor’s office. González expressed being available for the position, saying she has the skills to fix the administrative problems at the root of the island’s fading credibility in Washington, but that she was not going to request the position because, as resident commissioner, she already represents the island.
When Vázquez had expressed a couple of weeks ago she was not interested in becoming governor, González called her to say she was available after the legislative leaders asked if she would be interested in assuming the post.
Asked if in the event she were nominated as secretary of State, her vacancy in Congress, however brief, would represent a continuity problem, González replied that “it’s the other way around. First, because there is already precedent for that,” and that she knows “the congressional side of it; the part where we have the main problem is not in the legislative part it’s in the administrative part, it’s in the work of the government of Puerto Rico.”
When leaving La Fortaleza, the resident commissioner said Vázquez hadn’t brought up the matter of the secretary of State vacancy and that she hadn’t either.
Although the González didn’t divulge the details of the 50-minute meeting, the resident commissioner did make the distinction that it was Vázquez who asked for the meetings with her and the legislative leadership, which contrasted with Pedro Pierluisi, who never reached out to her during his few days as governor. Pierluisi was sworn-in as last Friday after Ricardo Rosselló resigned but was ordered to step down Wednesday by Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court, which declared his takeover unconstitutional.