Junta created by U.S. House PROMESA Act includes broad powers with no accountability by Congress.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
June 9, 2016
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economically Stability Act (PROMESA) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 297-127, which creates a federal financial control board with no oversight and accountability by Congress itself. The bill now goes before the U.S. Senate for approval.
U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) of Puerto Rican descent on Thursday in the House floor opposed the PROMESA Bill, which creates a federal financial control board (Junta) of seven people to oversee the future of Puerto Rico with broad powers that can meet in close session and won’t be accountable to the government of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Congress. The Junta will actually work with investors and not with the government of Puerto Rico. Gutiérrez offered ten amendments in the Rules Committee and none were discussed or taken up for debate on the floor of the House.
One of Gutiérrez’ amendments would have provided for the U.S. government to allocate $370M to fund the Junta operating cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office and not be the fiscal responsibility of Puerto Rico (PR), which already has a $72B debt. Another amendment would allow PR to ratify approval of the federal Junta.
PR has until July 1 to make a $1.9B debt payment to the U.S. government. PR has a 45% poverty rate, high unemployment rate and schools around the island will begin closing due to the debt crisis.
The House did approve under the PROMESA Act that federal taxpayer investments would be protected. But many public, health care (hospitals) and police services will be virtually affected and cease service to the population. PR workers are expected to be paid less than the minimum wage under the bill, which adds no protection for a living wage.
The PROMESA Act failed to address the debt crisis, provide oversight and accountability by Congress, according to Congressman Gutiérrez who opposed the Act. The Governor of PR and the island legislature opposed the PROMESA Act as well.
PR can’t file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy under a U.S. colony status.
The White House released the following statement, “While the legislation is not perfect, it is an important first step to addressing Puerto Rico’s challenges. The bill helps to protect the 3.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico from further reductions in critical public services while giving Puerto Rico the tools it needs to restructure its debt.
The Senate should act expeditiously to review and vote on this measure, so the President can sign the bill into law ahead of the critical July 1st debt payment deadline.”