Senate Must Act Now on Bipartisan Puerto Rico Legislation
‘Today we have an opportunity to help the Puerto Rican people in the face of this crisis and prevent a taxpayer bailout by passing the responsible, bipartisan bill before us. This bill won’t cost the taxpayers a dime. What it will do is help Puerto Rico restructure its financial obligations and provide much-needed oversight to put into place reforms.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding bipartisan legislation to help prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout of Puerto Rico:
“The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is in crisis, it owes billions of dollars in debt, and it could be forced to leave residents without essential services like hospitals and public safety resources without prompt congressional action.
“If we don't act before the island misses a critical debt payment deadline this Friday, matters will only get worse — for Puerto Rico and for taxpayers. President Obama's Treasury Secretary warns that Puerto Rico could be forced to ‘lay off police officers, shut down public transit’ and close medical facilities, and this could very well result in a taxpayer-funded bailout.
“Today we have an opportunity to help the Puerto Rican people in the face of this crisis and prevent a taxpayer bailout by passing the responsible, bipartisan bill before us. This bill won’t cost the taxpayers a dime. What it will do is help Puerto Rico restructure its financial obligations and provide much-needed oversight to put into place reforms.
“It achieves this with an audit of the island’s finances and the establishment of what the Washington Post has called an ‘impartial panel of experts to bring desperately needed transparency and reform to Puerto Rico’s fiscal operations.
“Puerto Rico currently spends over a third of its budget on debt payments alone. By restructuring Puerto Rico’s financial debt and helping reform its operations, this bill will allow the territory to instead invest more of its resources in growing the economy and creating more opportunities for its residents.
“This bill isn’t perfect, but here's why we should support it: It won't cost taxpayers a dime, it prevents a bailout, and it offers Puerto Rico the best chance to return to financial stability and economic growth over the long term — so we can help prevent another financial crisis like this in the future. In short, it's ‘just the first step,’ as the governor of Puerto Rico said, ‘in what will be…[a] long road to recovery’ for the island. But it’s the most responsible, taxpayer-friendly step we can take now.
“Let me remind colleagues, Puerto Rico faces a critical deadline this Friday. This is the best, and possibly the only, action we can take to help Puerto Rico. As Secretary Lew put it, ‘[D]oing nothing now to end the debt crisis will result in a chaotic, disorderly unwinding with widespread consequences.’ It's the surest route to both a taxpayer-funded bailout of Puerto Rico and a humanitarian crisis for its people. These are things we should all want to avoid.
“So doing nothing is not an option. We must act now to prevent matters from getting worse. The House already passed this bipartisan bill with the backing of nearly 300 members. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to send this to the president's desk.”