Friday, September 30, 2022

Obama Mulls Rejection of GOP Control Board Candidates

By on August 9, 2016

SAN JUAN – When President Barack Obama descended upon Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 6, he would be mulling more than the break on a six-foot putt on the links over the next two weeks. The President is on a retreat with his family and a confidante Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, who will reportedly be conducting interviews of candidates to the federal fiscal-control board that will be overseeing Puerto Rico’s financial affairs when the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa) kicks into high gear.

“Obama is mulling the possibility of rejecting some of the names on the Republican list. Valerie is all over this through the optic of legacy—the President wants to be viewed as the guy who made some tough decisions on Puerto Rico and the campaign on the Hillary [Clinton] side would like nothing more than to have the President execute something like this,” said one source with knowledge of the process and ties to the GOP. “Some of this may be due to the way it plays along the I-4 corridor [in Florida]—lots of things. I don’t think there is one thing driving this other than that the names are totally unacceptable to the administration.

President Barack Obama gestures as he looks at the hole before putting on the first green during a round of golf at Farm Neck Golf Course in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. The president and his family are vacationing on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Barack Obama gestures as he looks at the hole before putting on the first green during a round of golf at Farm Neck Golf Course in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Promesa stipulates that the president will select members of the “territorial control board” from lists supplied by: the speaker of the House (two appointees from separate lists); the Senate majority leader (two appointees); the Senate minority leader (one appointee); the House minority leader (one appointee) and one appointee from his own list.

Sources from both sides of the aisle told Caribbean Business that they could see a scenario where names from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s lists would be appointed and one person each from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would be appointed, thus delivering two Republican and two Democrat control board members.

If the President does not select any names from particular lists, those submitting can provide additional names. If, however, the President leaves appointments vacant, new names introduced beyond the Sept. 15 deadline “shall be by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,” according to Section 101 (E).

In waiting mode

Although there is already a short list of names that has been submitted for the president’s review, Republicans who are anticipating a political move on Promesa by Obama are going back to the drawing board with the names that will be submitted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “There are some names on that list that are of no interest whatsoever to the Obama administration and on the Republican side, they are not interested in sending more names,” said the Capitol source with knowledge of the process. “We have sent you the names—so pick from the list. If not, send us names that can be confirmed by the Senate. So, yes, there is a bit of a rub right now; they are trying to fix it.”

Some additional candidates will meet with McConnell to make certain that the Republicans are submitting names that are beyond reproach. The GOP sources on Capitol Hill who spoke to Caribbean Business on the condition of anonymity could see the president not selecting from the McConnell list, thus leaving three spots—McConnell’s two and Obama’s one—on the control board open.

The president has a Sept. 30 deadline to appoint the members of the board; if the deadline is blown, the names will go through the Senate confirmation process.

“If that happens you would have to hold confirmation hearings for the remaining candidates,” another source tied to the Democratic Party told Caribbean Business. “The calculation then is that this could drag on until 2017 when you could have Hillary Clinton in the White House and a Democratic Senate with the numbers in the polls as they stand.”

At this writing, Donald Trump was tanking in the polls, thanks to recent gaffes in the national spotlight. According to various national polls, Hillary Clinton continues to lead over Trump, with margins of 8%-14%, as reported by NBC News / Wall Street Journal, Washington Post / ABC News, CNN and Fox News.

At the same time, there are 34 Senate seats up for grabs in the November elections, of which 24 are held by Republicans, according to the website Republicans are concerned that with Trump’s numbers falling in national polls, the GOP could lose some Senate races, thereby losing their majority in the upper chamber. Currently, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, which hold 54 seats, versus 45 for the Democrats.

“In naming two Republicans and two Democrats, you would have enough to have quorum to constitute the board, but not enough for one of the two parties to have a majority,” explained the Capitol source tied to the Democrats. “Then you would leave the other three names to be confirmed by what could be a Democratic majority in the Senate with a Clinton White House.”

According to the Republican source, the president’s political gamesmanship on Promesa is a bit of ‘tit-for-tat’ in retaliation for McConnell’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In the context of the Senate majority leader’s immovable stance on holding hearings, it does not seem likely that hearings on Promesa’s potential vacancies would take place before 2017.

As this newspaper was going to press, sources informed Caribbean Business that the FBI was vetting names that have been submitted on the various lists. Jarrett will be interviewing some of the candidates over the next several days.

Editor Rosario Fajardo contributed to this story.

[Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that the deadline for the President to name the members of the oversight board was Sept. 30. The correct date in the final text of the Promesa Act is Sept. 15.]

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