Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a letter recently from John B. Larson (D-CT), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Elizabeth H. Esty (D-CT), Jim Himes (D-CT), David Cicilline (D-RI), Peter Welch (VT), and Richard E. Neal (D-MA), urging the introduction of a legislative proposal that provides “immediate relief” to Puerto Rico’s fiscal problems and addresses “systematic challenges in federal programs.”
The letter begins, “We commend you for your efforts along with the other members of the Republican leadership and the relevant Committee chairmen to draft legislation by March 31st to address the economic crisis facing Puerto Rico, which is home to 3.5 million U.S. citizens.” The letter goes on to remind Ryan of the problems facing the Island, including the fact that “the impact of this crisis extends beyond just Puerto Rico.”
This is the introduction to a call for swift action, in the form of a new law that deals not only with the immediate debt crisis which has led to defaults already and may continue with future defaults, but also with the “underlying issues that have contributed to the current crisis.”
The specific issues discussed include
- A plan to allow Puerto Rico to restructure debts, either by extending chapter 9 bankruptcy protection to the territory, or through another mechanism. Congress can, in the view of the Treasury, create an Act without using chapter 9 that offers the ability to restructure.
- An oversight board, if needed, to help Puerto Rico get on track financially, with the stipulation that “it respects the voices of Puerto Rican citizens and the roles of their democratically elected leaders.”
- Recognition of the inequality in federal programs’ treatment of Puerto Rico and the States, with particular reference to Medicare, Medicaid, EITC and CTC programs.
“If this crisis is not addressed properly and expeditiously,” the letter concludes, “we risk further devastation to the Puerto Rican people and the Puerto Rican economy, as well as higher costs for U.S. taxpayers.”