Before adjourning for the year, numerous Members of Congress spoke about Puerto Rico’s treatment in the final omnibus funding legislation. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), a Puerto Rican native, was part of the group. In his remarks, made on December 17th, Rep. Serrano explained:
This is a very bittersweet moment for me. On one hand, I am so proud of what my staff and I and other Members and your staff did to make the financial services portion of this bill much better, much, much better. We increased dollars to the IRS. We helped the Treasury Department. We helped the Small Business Administration. We did so much that would make anyone want to be the top yeller and screamer in favor of this bill. For that I am very grateful, and for that I am very thankful to the committee and to our leadership and to the staff.
But then, as one who was born in an American territory called Puerto Rico, there is a glaring omission; and that is that, in Puerto Rico’s worst financial crisis, we could not get our colleagues on the other side to agree to just some simple help, some simple opportunities to declare bankruptcy, for a simple opportunity to put their house in order, a simple opportunity to restructure their debt.
I have said so many times here that I find myself always in this, not contradiction, but this double situation, where I am a Member of the United States Congress, proud of that, a New Yorker since the age of 6, a long time ago, very proud of that, but born in the territory. And if there were ever a sign of what colonialism is, it is what we have done in this bill.
We totally ignore the needs of 4 million American citizens. We totally ignore the need for them to restructure their debt. We totally ignore the need for them to survive and, in the process, we may be creating a humanitarian crisis. We could have averted it simply by allowing some simple language in this bill, but we chose not to do so.
So I think it is time that we do two things: that we address the issue, as Speaker Ryan has said that he will, before March 31, the issue, in general, of Puerto Rico’s problem; but it is also time to address the issue of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. It can’t continue to be what it is.
It either needs to be an independent nation or a State of the Union, but it can’t continue to be powerless and begging for everything it gets.
Click here for additional statements by Congressman Serrano about Puerto Rico.