Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who was born in Puerto Rico, spoke up on behalf of the financially strapped U.S. territory on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on December 17th. In her remarks, the frequent Puerto Rico advocate in a Congress in which Puerto Rico lacks voting representation emphasized:
“It is unconscionable that the legislation we are considering does nothing to address Puerto Rico’s mounting debt crisis. Puerto Rico’s crisis is decades in the making, and it stems from years of neglect from this very same body, the United States Congress.
“The United States Congress brought us where we are today. Now it has a moral responsibility to act.
“Yet my Republican colleagues are standing in the way. Giving Puerto Rico authority to restructure its debts will not cost taxpayers a dime, but it would help solve their fiscal crisis. To those who say Puerto Rico needs to cut spending, I ask you: How much more? The island spends $2,000 less per student than the average spent on the mainland. The government has already closed nearly 100 schools this year in addition to 60 closures last year. Sales taxes are the highest in the United States and would increase from 7 percent to 11.5 percent. The government has laid off 21 percent of its employees since 2008, and the 2016 budget makes further cuts.
“Puerto Rico is doing its part to raise revenue and cut expenses. Stop playing Russian roulette with the well-being of the Puerto Rican people, American citizens. Despite all the reforms that have been taken, Wall Street hedge funds want more. They bought this debt at cheap prices, and now they want it all. They are willing to inflate big suffering on 3.5 million American citizens in order to reap massive profits. Sadly, congressional Republicans decide.”