Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner, and New Progressive Party gubernatorial hopeful Pedro Pierluisi issued a statement today to react to the events on Capitol Hill regarding Puerto Rico and its economic crisis.

In a written release Pierluisi said:

“This morning, I spoke on the House floor about the crisis in Puerto Rico, and about the urgent need for Congress to enact legislation that gives Puerto Rico the tools it needs to surmount this crisis. Subsequently, Congressman Sean Duffy, Republican from Wisconsin, filed the Puerto Rico Financial Stability and Debt Restructuring Choice Act.  The bill would provide Puerto Rico with the same ability to restructure debt as the states have, while establishing a temporary financial stability council to assist Puerto Rico in managing its finances.  The Puerto Rico government could opt not to use the restructuring authority, in which case the council would not be established.  However, if Puerto Rico does elect to use the restructuring authority, the council would take effect for a period of time.  The choice would be Puerto Rico’s.  I commend Congressman Duffy for his leadership in acknowledging that Puerto Rico requires a federal mechanism to restructure debt.  I hope Congressman Duffy will work with me to re-calibrate the oversight portion of his bill, which I believe has problematic aspects.

The statement was prompted after a flurry of activity, including Pierluisi’s speech on the House floor, and intense lobbying by the administration of Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who flew to the nation’s capital in a last ditch attempt to convince Congress to approve aid measures for the territory before the year’s end. By early next year, Puerto Rico is widely expected to run out of cash necessary to both make debt payments and keep the government open.

Watch Pierluisi’s Speech on the House floor


In addition to the bill filed in the House, the Senate saw the introduction of the Puerto Rico Assistance Act of 2015 by Committee on Finance Chair Orrin Hatch, republican from Utah. The bill, which has yet to be released, drew a mixed reaction from Pierluisi, who said that after reviewing its summary, that “there are aspects of the bill that are positive—such as the bill’s recognition that Puerto Rico is treated inequitably under federal health programs, the allocation of up to $3 billion in federal funding to assist the territory, and federal payroll tax relief for island workers for five years—and aspects that I have concerns with, such as the absence of a federal mechanism to enable Puerto Rico to restructure any of its debt.”

The bill’s introduction in the Senate followed brief statements on the floor by democratic Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Whether the bills have any chance of being enacted into law is yet to be seen. Republicans seem hesitant to include Puerto Rico in Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections, at least without a federal control board that can implement fiscal control measures in the territory to address the crisis. The best chances of approval seem to be an inclusion of any measure in the bill for the approval of the federal budget for next fiscal year.

Pierluisi closed his statement with an optimistic tone, noting that “viewed in their entirety, the individual developments today demonstrate that congressional leaders fully understand the severity of the crisis and are actively considering concrete steps to empower Puerto Rico.  Now is the time to work together on a bipartisan basis to enact a sensible package of legislative provisions into law.”