Congress’ attempts to reverse Puerto Rico’s plummeting economy and US $70 billion deficit hit another bump in the road this week as disagreements within the Republican Party as well as with Democrats delayed a debt crisis bill that should have gone to vote April 20.
Instead, Republicans are claiming they need more time to convince party members that the bill is not a “bailout” while also trying to accumulate partisan support, which Democrats will not agree to easily without the consideration of giving the island complete bankruptcy protection, and deleting a provision that would lower the island’s minimum wage from US $7.25 to $4.25, among other things.
Puerto Rico’s economic problems stem from its tendency to over-borrow and -spend over the years, The Washington Times reported, while also witnessing an exodus of a young labor force. Breitbart pointed our that the island has long had a “bloated public sector” and government spending that “has been exploding.”
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To stop the bleeding in the short term, officials have been cutting public programs, laying off hospital workers and borrowing from pensions. Now, they are hoping Congress can allot funds to the island in part so as to replace those jobs, resurrect the public sector and protect pensions.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan gave his endorsement of the bill last week, claiming it would do all of those things and more, but has spent the rest of that time trying to unite the GOP around the plan.
The bill “holds the right people accountable for the crisis, shrinks the size of government and authorizes an independent board to help get Puerto Rico on a path to fiscal health,” Ryan said.
But Republican Bill Flores said in a March 30 statement that “legislation regarding Puerto Rico’s fiscal situation includes provisions that essentially provide for a federally forced restructuring the island’s debt. This approach is inconsistent with the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) position on this issue.”
Many Republicans said they believe the island, which legally remains largely autonomous, should be picking itself back up after an economic collapse it brought on itself, and not receiving what could essentially be called a “bailout” if not given deeper consideration.
“In all my time in Congress, no one has ever asked me to do something quite like this,” said Louisiana Republican John Fleming. “This is the kind of ‘go along’ politics Americans and I are tired of.”