Puerto Rico bill moves forward, bipartisan compromise holding
After what was a contentious and tense encounter, the United States House Committee on Natural Resources has approved HR 5279, or PROMESA, establishing a relief process for Puerto Rico. In a bipartisan 29-10 vote, the committee now sends the slightly amended legislation to the House floor, where it could be, but likely will not be taken up before the Memorial Day recess.
The agreement was a rarely seen exercise in bipartisanship that has come come about as Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has worsened. The realization set in that the bill was a better option than a taxpayer-funded bailout that the U.S. might have to consider if Puerto Rico’s economy continued on its downward trajectory. Some of the amendments themselves were bipartisan.
Rep. Rob Bishop, the committee’s chairman and a Utah Republican, had made that clear Tuesday evening, when opening statements were given. He said that if Congress did not pass the bill it would be faced with the prospect of a “real taxpayer bailout.”
Despite today’s events, the road ahead is not a smooth one. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has announced his opposition to the bill, as has presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who might yield significant influence in the Senate, where one senator can stop or significantly delay legislation. As of this moment, it is unclear how far Sanders might be willing to go in order to oppose the bill.