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Voting on Fiscal Oversight Board Postponed Until May

By on April 21, 2016

SAN JUAN—Due to the ongoing impasse in the U.S. Congress concerning the approval of a fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico, voting on the controversial bill by the House’s Committee on Natural Resources  will not take place until May, according to statements made Thursday by the commonwealth’s resident commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi.

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, right, delivers his opening statement at the “U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Analysis of the Situation in Puerto Rico” House Committee on Natural Resources hearing.

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, right, delivers his opening statement at the “U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Analysis of the Situation in Puerto Rico” House Committee on Natural Resources hearing.

For the past week, members of both aisles of Congress have bickered over the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, a bill that various GOP members in the lower chamber are pushing to tackle the island’s fiscal crisis. If signed, PROMESA would establish an independent seven-member fiscal oversight board that would also oversee the commonwealth’s debt-restructuring efforts.

“The next step is to have a revised version of the bill that addresses the just claims of all the parties affected by the fiscal crisis we are facing, which should ideally take place sometime next week” said the island’s sole, non-voting representative in Congress. “The immediate goal is for the revised bill to go on vote before the Committee on Natural Resources  after the next congressional recess, which end Monday, May 9.”

The comments came about after Pierluisi met with Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who heads the Committee on Natural Resources , and Antonio Weiss, special advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department, earlier in the day.  “I know firsthand that [both officials] are genuinely committed in revising and fine-tuning the bill to ensure that it includes an mechanism allowing the payment restructuring of our public entities with the utmost efficiency and agility.”

As congressional disagreements continue, the clock continues to tick on the commonwealth’s next large debt-service payment, namely $422 million due May 2 on Government Development Bank (GDB) debt. The administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla  has repeatedly warned it doesn’t have enough money to meet in full neither the upcoming payment nor another, yet bigger payment of  $1.5 billion slated for July 1, which includes $780 million in general obligation bonds protected by the Puerto Rico Constitution.

Pierluisi took the opportunity to urge the García Padilla administration to do everything in its power to prevent a default in the GDB obligations and arrive at an agreement with the bank’s main creditors. “As I have said repeatedly, defaulting on the debt benefits nobody: not the government, or the creditors, or the people,” he said.

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