Bernie Sanders issued a press release on April 1st calling on Congress for action. Speaker Paul Ryan had set March 31st as the deadline for a plan, and the draft of a plan was completed on that day. Sanders was one of many responding to the plan with concern, but the first presidential candidate to do so.
“There is a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico that Congress and the administration must address as soon as possible,” he wrote But let me be clear: Establishing an unelected oversight board that would be given the power to inflict even more economic pain on the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico would be a move in exactly the wrong direction. It must be defeated.”
The idea of an oversight board was supported by the U.S. Treasury, and Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi expressed a willingness to accept such a board if necessary. Both Pierluisi and the Treasury Department stated that a means of restructuring debt would also have to be provided, along with the fiscal oversight board. In the draft plan, the board would be tasked with figuring out the best way to restructure debt, rather than allowing Puerto Rico to use chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, as earlier plans had suggested. Sanders is not satisfied with this option.
“The economic situation in Puerto Rico will not be improved by closing more schools, firing more teachers, laying-off more workers, slashing pensions and suspending the minimum wage,” said Sanders. “Congress must act immediately to give Puerto Rico the same authority granted to every municipality in this country to restructure its debt under the supervision of a bankruptcy court.”
Sanders went on, “We must not give in to the demands of vulture funds and Wall Street investment banks who are demanding a 100 percent return on their investments. Instead, these wealthy investors must take a significant haircut. The people in Puerto Rico should not be asked to suffer even more, so that a handful of wealthy investors can become even wealthier.”
“Moreover,” the statement continued, “if any of Puerto Rico’s debt was incurred in violation of its Constitution it must be immediately set aside.”