Puerto Rico Bill Delayed Again

Committee still 'working through' issues on debt crisis plan for the territory

Congressional efforts to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis have hit a number of obstacles. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Congressional efforts to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis have hit a number of obstacles. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted May 11, 2016 at 11:19am

Release of a House bill that seeks to rescue Puerto Rico from its $72 billion debt crisis will be delayed at least a day because of “technical” discussions, a committee spokesman said Wednesday.  

“We’re working through some technical stuff and minor refinements that will take us through today,” said Parish Braden, spokesman for the House Natural Resources Committee. The committee had expected to release the measure on Wednesday.  

The bill, (HR 4900 ), is the result of several months of heated debates. But pressure on Congress to come to a resolution has been mounting since the U.S. territory defaulted on roughly $367 million in bond payments from its Government Development Bank on May 2. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump weighed in  last week.  

“What they have to do is cut the debt way down,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  

[Related: Bid to Ease Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Draws Fire in House]

The Obama administration objected to the earlier bill over language that it said would make it too difficult for Puerto Rico to restructure its debt in federal court. And Democrats opposed a provision that would reduce the minimum wage on the island.  

Republicans crafting the bill worried it would be identified as a “bailout” of the island, as television ads from the Center for Individual Freedom, a conservative advocacy group, have alleged. Despite those claims, no U.S. taxpayer money is at stake in the bill.  

The new plan has also faced potential hang-ups. A section dealing with a transfer of 3,100 acres of federally protected land on the island of Vieques from the federal government to territorial authorities, for example, has already drawn the attention of the Obama administration and some environmental groups. They have warned that the proposed transfer could undermine conservation efforts.  

With the territory’s governor warning of another default in July, Republicans and Democrats said recently that they were nearing an agreement on the bill, and that it would be ready for a markup by the week of May 16.  

Contact Akin at stephanieakin@cqrollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @stephanieakin.

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