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U.S. Democratic Senators Continue to File Puerto Rico Legislation

By on March 16, 2016

SAN JUAN — A group of Democratic senators filed a bill in Congress on Tuesday to tackle the Puerto Rico fiscal crisis by providing debt-restructuring tools paired with fiscal oversight, in what constitutes yet another move to assist the troubled U.S. territory.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced on Tuesday S. 2682, “a bill to provide territories of the U.S. with bankruptcy protection.” It would give Puerto Rico the ability to restructure its debt in a “transparent, orderly way,” a press statement from Gillibrand’s office reads.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks about the release of a new report authored by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz published by the Roosevelt Institute May 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. The report, titled "New Economic Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity", discusses the current distribution of wealth in the U.S. and offers proposals for modifying that distribution. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The new measure comes on the heels of a comprehensive legislative package introduced earlier this week by four Democratic senators to address the commonwealth’s fiscal and economic woes. But although different legislative options have been brought to the table, “what is most important is the growing consensus that Congress must act now on a solution that goes to the heart of the problem,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

The Alejandro García Padilla administration and U.S. Treasury officials continue to lobby Capitol Hill for a broad, tailored debt-restructuring regime; increased federal funding in healthcare; and economic development incentive tools.

“Congress must take action now,” Gillibrand stressed. “Puerto Rico is in a terrible hole, and if Congress doesn’t act, Wall Street creditors will pick apart what is left of the economy,”  Warren added.

The need for Congress to act urgently on the matter was also the message of the “Puerto Rico Day of Action,” an initiative held Tuesday to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the island’s fiscal crisis. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Grammy Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda of the Broadway show “Hamilton” and various community leaders joined the effort by holding talks with various members of Congress.

“I proudly wave the Puerto Rican flag, but now that my island is suffering and disappearing before us, we all must do more than wave the flag,” Miranda said. “Today I am here to do my part and take my shot by urging Congress to come together and stop a man-made humanitarian crisis that is urgent and getting worse by the day.”.

Expectations are running high on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) pledge to have legislation ready by the end of the month. Yet, uncertainty over prompt congressional action continues to loom large as the García Padilla administration scrambles to secure enough support among Republicans in Congress to achieve the tools it says it needs to tackle its crisis, particularly over access to a broad debt-restructuring regime.

“Democratic legislation in the U.S. Senate is likely to generate bold headlines about territorial bankruptcy, but the vastly creditor hostile provisions of the proposed legislation are dead-on-arrival in the GOP-controlled Congress,” Daniel Hanson, an analyst at Washington, D.C.-based Height Securities, said earlier this week.

“Time is running out before the May 1 deadline for Puerto Rico’s next bond payment, and if Congress doesn’t act, Puerto Rico will soon find itself unable to operate its government,” House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “I urge Republicans to work with us to bring legislation to the Floor that provides Puerto Rico with the same ability other jurisdictions have had to restructure its debt and begin to move past this crisis.”

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