During his nomination hearing today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin told a Democratic Senator that with respect to the territory’s challenges, “we need to figure out a bipartisan solution.”
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) used a portion of his remarks to address the unequal treatment of Puerto Rico. He explained: “Another financial disaster is what’s happening in Puerto Rico, not only because of what they are at fault about, but also in the unequal way that they have been treated by the law — quirks in the law that I do not understand how they ever got that way. They are not treated the same on bankruptcy laws, they are not treated the same on Medicare and Medicaid laws, and they have a particularly tragic situation where they were given a block grant of Medicaid money, that’s running out this year; while at the same time one-third of the island’s residents are infected with Zika. And we know that 15 percent of those infected with Zika, if they are pregnant, there is a 15 percent chance that they are going to have a deformed child.”
He then said to the Treasury Nominee: “I would like very much for you to keep that in mind because we’ve got to come up with a plan. Now, I know a lot of responsibility is on us in the Congress. The Chairman led an effort and we tried to get some things passed in December. But the big things like Medicaid are coming up in the future.”
Mnuchin responded by noting that Puerto Rico was high on a list of priorities set forth by outgoing Treasury Secretary Jack Lew during a recent meeting. Mnuchin said that he has been studying up on Puerto Rico issues and shared Sen. Nelson’s concerns. “I have someone who I’ve already asked internally who is going to be working with me to start working on and get debriefed by the Treasury Staff on this and this is going to be something that we need to figure out a bipartisan solution to.”
“I look forward to working with you,” added Mnuchin.