Washington - Any new debate about the fiscal crisis or political status of Puerto Rico in the House Committee on Natural Resources will have to wait, at least, until September, confirmed yesterday the chairman of the committee, Republican Rob Bishop.
Not even the decision of the Fiscal Supervision Board in charge of the public finances of Puerto Rico to bring the restructuring of the debt of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) before Judge Laura Taylor Swain, - to which Bishop opposed - will trigger a hearing this month in the Natural Resources Committee.
“There is no time (this month)”, said the congressman about the hearing he had scheduled over the fiscal crisis, public debt and enforcement of the federal law PROMESA, imposed by the Board, that opened the door to an comprehensive process for the restructuring of the Island public debt.
The federal lower house would suspend its work on July 28th and would not meet again - unless the Senate approves a bill on Obamacare - until September 5th.
The House Committee on Natural Resources has the primary jurisdiction over the debate around the political status and the Island fiscal crisis.
In statements to El Nuevo Dia, Bishop said that he considers that the members of the Board "did not read the PROMESA law correctly", because they understood that the statute forbid the review of restructuring agreements formalized prior to May 18th , 2016.
However two weeks after the Board decision to bring the $ 9 billion debt restructuring to the new judicial bankruptcy system set forth by PROMESA, there does not appear to be an urgency to address this issue at a public hearing.
The only session that the Congress held this year to review the serious fiscal situation of the Puerto Rican government took place in March and was focused on PREPA, the public corporation that bondholders have been trying to use as an example for the readjustment of the rest of the public debt.
A month after the plebiscite that took place on June 11th, in which the statehood obtained about 502,000 votes (97%) and that in the middle of the political opposition boycott, only 23% of the electors participated, congressman Bishop has neither commented on the results.
Regarding the law project that Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González intends to present to lead the idea of making Puerto Rico the 51st State of the United States, Bishop noted that “we will discuss the issue at some point”.
González pointed out that she will soon present her new bill, which becomes necessary after Governor Ricardo Rosselló rejected to postpone the consultation and await for the evaluation of the Department of Justice of the United States over the plebiscite law amendments, according to the language of a federal law of January 2014.
González's original legislation called for a direct admission process for Puerto Rico as a US State, but subject to statehood being ratified in a creole plebiscite endorsed by the Secretary of Justice of the United States.
Although Bishop has yet to comment on the results of the plebiscite, Commissioner Gonzalez is still confident that the Natural Resources Committee - as a full body or through the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs - will hold a hearing over her new bill and the consultation in September.
Gonzalez said that the work agenda of the Natural Resources Committee refers not only to the fiscal crisis, but to the status debate.
Moreover, she considered that the federal Board must be more active in keeping the members of the Congress informed about the voluntary negotiations and the restructuring process of the debt through Court to avoid inconveniences such as the ones expressed by the Republicans Bishop and Doug LaMalfa (California), about PREPA case.
LaMalfa, who chairs the Indian, Insular and Alaska Natives Affairs Subcommittee, has expressed that after the low participation in the plebiscite, the debate over Puerto Rico must be focused on the fiscal crisis.
“It is very important to maintain the option of good faith negotiation (in PREPA) and to make agreements that are good for Puerto Rico, and good for both parties”, said González.
Due to the fact that she considers that “the same bondholders who have not reached an agreement with the government are the ones that keep many of the Congress members informed”, González stated that the Board should have a better communication with federal legislators.
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