U.S. Congress Considering Promesa
SAN JUAN—The U.S. Congress began considering the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) Wednesday afternoon after a brief debate on the House floor.
Though brief, the debate on the floor became heated between those against and in favor of the bill’s approval.
“Let’s treat Puerto Ricans with dignity and respect. They are not inanimate objects… I cannot vote for this,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who is of Puerto Rican descent.
Gutierrez pleaded Congress to “do it, at least, in Spanish so that people can know what’s going on,” referring to the Promesa bill. The lawmaker from Illinois recalled the U.S. colonial period when “King George would come down with his decree, before he burn down this building, so we would understand.”
In favor of the passing of the bill, Rep. Glen Grothman (R-WI) said the fiscal crisis affecting Puerto Rico “is largely of its own making.”
“Puerto Rico had internal self-government for over 50 years; it wasn’t Congress who forced Puerto Rico to pile up debt after debt. And it wasn’t Congress who tapped Puerto Rico on the shoulder until now and said ‘you can’t sustain this debt,’” said Grothman before mentioning that there had already been two defaults of the island’s debt service, as well as another coming up in July.
The representative from Wisconsin alerted Congress that the situation in Puerto Rico could very well be “a cautionary tale” for the rest of the U.S. in terms of debt accumulation.
“Promesa is not about rewarding bad behavior. If we wanted to reward bad behavior, we would pay billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to finance a bailout, to finance all this irresponsible borrowing that has been going on in Puerto Rico,” said Grothman.
According to the lawmaker, the fiscal oversight board will set Puerto Rico’s finances in order, essentially doing what the Puerto Rican government failed to do so by itself.
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), one of the bill’s promoters, said the proposed bill has bipartisan support and that “both sides of the aisle have consistently worked together” to deal with the fiscal crisis affecting Puerto Rico.
In closing the debate, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Al.) said that the bill is based on “common sense” and has bipartisan support; he also rhetorically asked: “isn’t this what we are here for?”