Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio this morning helped advance legislation to ease Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
The bill (read the details here) would restructure territory’s finances and create an oversight board. The Senate could take a final vote later this week, just in time for a July 1 deadline on a $2 billion debt payment.
“This legislation that the House has crafted is certainly not the bill that I would have crafted, but it's the only bill that we have before us that could get by the Tea Party element in the House of Representatives,” Nelson said. “It's not ideal, particularly with regard to the labor provisions in the bill and the way the oversight board is organized. And you'll hear that bipartisan attacks against the bill in the Senate, well-meaning and well-felt, but this legislation is needed to get Puerto Rico out of this immediate crisis.”
Rubio was among opponents of Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
“While some form of debt restructuring may become necessary at some point, it should be a last resort with the onus first being on San Juan’s politicians to get their fiscal mess in order and adopt pro-growth policies,” Rubio wrote in opinion column that ran in Florida Today. “Only then will the conditions for long-term economic growth and prosperity in Puerto Rico exist.
“But Congress has a role to play too, given that our Constitution gives the House and Senate responsibility over all U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is an appropriate first step by Congress to deal with this calamity. The bill would create a fiscal oversight board to help fix the mess, ensure that bondholders’ rights are protected and make sure a taxpayer bailout does not happen. Iunderstand that federal oversight is a tough pill to swallow for some on the island – and it’s an option I don’t take lightly, given my belief that government usually works best when it is closest to the people, not dictated from Washington. But in Puerto Rico’s case, it has become a necessary condition to ensure that tough decisions are made now, so that an even bigger crisis can be avoided.
Carlos Beruff, Rubio’s GOP primary opponent, used it as another attack point.
“A bailout by any other name is still a bailout,” Beruff’s campaign said in a statement. “In true Washington fashion, they’ve tried to hide the bailout from the people of Florida in the latest version of the bill. But the Puerto Ricopackage supported by Marco Rubio and Barack Obama leaves the taxpayers of Florida on the hook for Puerto Rico’s fiscal insanity and no Washington spin can hide that fact. Carlos Beruff is committed to using his business experience to give Washington’s out of control spending a serious reality check. Marco Rubio, on the other hand, has done nothing to fix this country’s fiscal mess and now wants to leave the taxpayers on the hook for anotherbailout.”
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times