(GFR Media) (semisquare-x3)
(GFR Media)

WASHINGTON – Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer González welcomed that the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources Democrat Raúl Grijalva (Arizona) is interested in starting conversations with the Republican minority about possible amendments to PROMESA.

"Any legislation will need bipartisan backing. A bill in the House that will not be considered in the Senate is worthless," said González, recalling that although Democrats have a majority in the House, Republicans control the Senate -53-47-. 

Gonzalez, who is part of the Republican conference, said she backs the idea of amending PROMESA to establish guarantees for pensions of the government retirement systems.

Grijalva indicated that, by June, he intends to first discuss with his Democratic colleagues on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and then, with the Republican minority to begin considering possible amendments to PROMESA.

Thursday´s hearing on PROMESA reflected how different the views of the Democrats and Republicans are regarding PROMESA and the options for improving it.

Grijalva and his Democratic caucus are interested in reviewing the powers of the Oversight Board in order to reduce austerity measures, and their effect, for example, on the most vulnerable, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and pensions of the government retirement systems.

But the Committee also has a bipartisan bill by Democratic Representative Nydia Velázquez (New York) pending. Velázquez bill seeks an amendment to PROMESA to correct what she believes has allowed conflicts of interest, in reference to the McKinsey company, that advises the Board despite the fact that one of its subsidiaries –MIO- had Puerto Rico´s bonds.

Velázquez indicated that she is in talks with the Judiciary Committee Chair Democrat Jerrold Nadler (Virginia) to have the endorsement of that committee. Commissioner González warned that amendments to PROMESA may also require that the Judiciary Committee allows the approval.

Republicans – who brought conservative financial expert Alex Pollock to the hearing to propose more powers for the Board and create the chief financial officer position to control the daily operations of the Puerto Rican government – focus their concerns on Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares complying with the Board´s recommendations for structural reforms in the government.

The government and the Board also have different views PROMESA, the law that created the fiscal entity with powers over the government of Puerto Rico and a judicial bankruptcy process to restructure most of the island´s public debt and retirement systems.

Rosselló Nevares asked Congress to amend PROMESA to prevent the Board from interfering with the public policy of the elected government, to let the government participate in the restructuring process and to avoid the duality of functions in the promotion of infrastructure projects created by Title V.

"For me, the most important thing is for the government to decide its public policy," said Rosselló after the hearing where Republicans criticized him for not following the Board´s recommendations regarding reforms such as the proposed repeal of Law 80 and the elimination of the Christmas bonus.

Republicans, led by minority spokesman Rob Bishop (Utah), also questioned that he did not send his presentation the day before the hearing, what he did just minutes before it started. Bishop also questioned Rosselló Nevares for saying that he did not have a fiscal oversight board when he ran for governor since PROMESA was approved in June 2016.

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