Speaker Ryan Moves to Cram Puerto Rico ‘Rescue’ Through Divided House

Puerto Rico bailout (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

House Speaker Paul Ryan is keeping his December commitment to Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi to push for quick action by Congress on a multi-billion rescue package for Puerto Rico.

Ryan wants the House Natural Resources Committee to approve legislative language at a committee mark-up on Wednesday, after Ryan and the committee reached a tentative agreement with President Barack Obama.

According to sources on Capitol Hill, the legislation would be rushed to the full House on Thursday, before Congress is scheduled to leave town for its Memorial Day recess. The quick action means the proposed deal that gives Puerto Rico debt relief will not be available for even a full day before the House votes on the deal.

The island territory is suffering under a self-inflicted debt crisis, after amassing more than $70 billion in debt. The island missed a scheduled debt-repayment earlier this month, when the territory’s legislature passed emergency legislation allowed the Governor to skip debt payments. The island faces a far more challenging $2 billion debt repayment on July 1st.

Ryan promised Democrats during the December budget talks that he would help develop an early 2016 rescue for Puerto Rico. After those December budget talks, top Democrats gloated that Ryan ‘gave away the store.’

Little is known about the precise details of the bi-partisan agreement, except that backers insist the rescue package is not a “bailout” of Puerto Rico. Tuesday afternoon, when the rushed schedule was announced, Speaker Ryan’s office released a list of quotes from selected policy experts and The Washington Post editorial board backing the deal.

These quotes, of course, backed the general concept of a rescue package for Puerto Rico. Until the actual legislative text is finalized in committee and ongoing negotiations, it is difficult to determine the precise consequences of the agreements.

It does not inspire confidence, however, that the agreement is being rushed through on the eve of a major federal holiday break, leaving few hours for any members to digest the details of the complex agreement.


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