The federal response to Puerto Rico’s financial crisis appears to be a growing issue in the 2016 presidential race.
As reported in the Washington Post, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has warned presidential candidates who are “passive” about extending Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections to municipalities in Puerto Rico that there will be consequences for their inaction. “Those who want the support of Puerto Ricans must help Puerto Rico now, not later,” he stated. “Puerto Ricans decide the elections in Florida. That’s very important. By deciding the election in Florida, we can decide [who is the next] president of the United States.”
Jeb Bush spoke out in favor of “treating [Puerto Rico] like the States” in the context of federal bankruptcy law before he made an official announcement regarding his candidacy. He reiterated this position recently and has also advocated for Statehood for Puerto Rico.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has also spoken in favor of allowing Puerto Rican municipalities the same kind of bankruptcy protection available within States.
“Puerto Rico should be able to negotiate with its creditors just as states can under the U.S. Bankruptcy code,” he said in a statement. “Congress should approve Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s legislation that would allow for this to happen.”
O’Malley has argued before that the Department of Health and Human Services should treat Puerto Rico equally under Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. He said this again in his statement, and added, “High costs and low reimbursement rates are a huge burden to Puerto Rico’s budget and millions of U.S. citizens are at risk of losing care.”
“These are two steps we can take today,” O’Malley went on, “but I urge the Administration and Congress to work with Puerto Rico on a path forward that both provides immediate relief, and builds a foundation for sustainable, long-term economic stability.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s most recent statement on the issue can be found in a June 30th tweet: “Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is not theirs alone. For PR’s economy to grow & their people to thrive, they need real tools & real support.”
Sen. Marco Rubio’s office also recently released a statement: “Senator Rubio has been closely watching events in Puerto Rico and is concerned about the economic situation there,” an office spokeswoman emailed the Washington Post. “He’s in the process of reviewing the legislation to make sure it is the right approach to begin addressing Puerto Rico’s debt crisis without having any negative impact on American taxpayers.”
Presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have not made public statements regarding Puerto Rico’s fiscal problems, however, they may be forced to go on the record with a position if the issue comes before a vote in the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) have indicated that they plan to advance legislation and seek a Republican cosponsor. The Washington Post raised the possibility that Schumer will attach a Puerto Rico chapter 9 proposal to broader legislation under consideration in the Senate, forcing the Republican candidates to take a position in a recorded vote.