Two more hearings on Puerto Rico are coming up, both on February 25th, 2016 and both at 10:00 a.m.
“Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis and Its Impact on the Bond Markets” will be held by the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Witnesses have not yet been announced.
“The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Analysis of the Situation in Puerto Rico” will be a full committee hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee. Antonio Weiss, counselor to the U.S. Treasury Secretary, will be the only witness at this hearing.
These two hearings on Puerto Rico will bring the total for the past year to nine. Pedro Pierluisi, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, plans to be present at both to ask pertinent questions. In a press release, Pierluisi expressed his hope and belief that the Congress will, after these two hearings, buckle down to their task of drafting a plan for Puerto Rico by March 31st, the deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Pierluisi also outlined three points on which he plans to hold firm:
- Puerto Rico must have a federally-authorized restructuring plan. It is not possible for Puerto Rico to pay its debts in full, and the Island also cannot make its own bankruptcy laws. Therefore, Congress must provide some means of restructuring the debt, or Puerto Rico will spend years mired in lawsuits with creditors.
- Puerto Rico must have equal treatment with states under federal programs. “This is the furthest thing from a bailout or a hand-out,” says Pierluisi. “This is about fundamental justice. It is about the federal government not treating Americans in Puerto Rico—so many of whom have fought for this country in uniform—like second-class citizens. ” Pierluisi, who was referencing Medicaid, Medicare, and the EITC program, though Puerto Rico is treated unfairly in many more federal programs, went on to say, “This is both immoral and illogical, since my constituents can board a plane and move to the states whenever they want. They have been doing precisely that in extraordinary numbers, in search of better quality of life and economic opportunities.”
- Puerto Rico should also have an independent oversight board to support the Puerto Rico government in its fiscal management. Pierluisi acknowledged that the Island’s government has a history of fiscal mismanagement, and that this makes it reasonable for the U.S. to put a board in place. However, he also said, “As I have repeatedly noted, because it is a territory, Puerto Rico has no democracy at the national level. If the oversight board in the forthcoming bill seeks to extinguish our democracy at the local level, or seems punitive in nature, I will do everything within my power to defeat it.”
The hearings are intended to assist the Congress to create a sound fiscal and economic plan for Puerto Rico.