WASHINGTON.- The president of the United States, Donald Trump, himself, last night complicated efforts by Island authorities and health Industry representatives to obtain a new allocation worth millions of dollars in Medicaid funds.
With a simple twit, president Trump attacked the demand by the Government of Puerto Rico to secure new funding for up to $900 million for federal fiscal year 2017-2018 in an upcoming budget resolution.
For Trump, whose White House has stayed away from the debate over Puerto Rico, democrats want to provide health insurers and the Island a financial bailout with US taxpayers’ funds.
“Sad,” said Trump in his twit.
US Health Secretary, Tom Price, however, has supported that Congress allots Puerto Rico some $900 million for next federal fiscal year, 2017-2018.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who’s been lobbying in Washington, responded to Trump that “the United States citizens of Puerto Rico deserve to be treated fairly.” “Health and civil rights are not partisan issues,” said Rosselló, whose lobbyists include Corey Lewandowski, who headed Trump’s campaign for some months.
The remarks by Trump came on the heels of news of last-minute republican efforts to condition the funding of Medicaid to either postpone or hinder access by the Government of Puerto Rico to the bankruptcy procedure under PROMESA.
The attempt at ‘quid pro quo’, related with those last-minute efforts in Congress to pass a resolution to extend funding for the federal government, is attributed mainly to a group of bondholders who have been pressing senators and house members.
During the meetings he attended yesterday in Congress, the spokesperson in the Senate of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD, by its Spanish acronym), Eduardo Bhatia, was told that “the architect of this moves appears to be Congressman (Puerto Rican republican) Raúl Labrador together with the Freedom Caucus.” “The bondholders are panicked at the thought of having a judge organize what needs paying and what not, such as provided for in chapter 3 of PROMESA,” he added.
Labrador –whose office did not respond yesterday to a request for information-, rejected Tuesday (a request by) the resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González, to propose intervening in hopes of amending PROMESA.
González, however, acknowledged to have heard unofficial reports, several days ago, to the effect that conservative sectors have sought to condition the Medicaid funds.
Another proposal being considered is to demand that the General Accounting Office (GAO) certify that the Oversight Board in charge of Puerto Rico’s public finances complies with the PROMESA law, said González.
The PROMESA law, signed into law by president Barack Obama on June 30, 2016, imposed an Oversight Board that controls the public finances of Puerto Rico, decreed a moratorium on litigations against the Island’s government, and opened the door to a debt restructuring process, whether voluntary or via the Courts.
The stay on litigations expires May 1, so starting next Tuesday, the federal board could have the power to –in compliance with the PROMESA requirements–, walk into court and request the restructure of the debt by means of a territorial bankruptcy procedure.
The intention of bondholders would be to stall the possibility of using the legal bankruptcy procedure, but without access to the stay on collecting the debt from the government. “One knows more or less who (promotes this possible ‘quid pro quo’) but disclosing names is not responsible,” said, for his part, to El Nuevo Día the governor’s representative to the federal board, Elías Sánchez.
Initial reports allege that the interest to avoid triggering Title III of PROMESA came from the government of Ricardo Rosselló. “Governor Rosselló lobbies to eliminate/stay title 3 of PROMESA in exchange for more money for Medicaid, helps bondholders. Bad for Puerto Rico,” twitted the president of Local 32BJ of New York and Vice President of the SEIU, Héctor Figueroa.
Sánchez rejected that “allegation” early on. “The government of Puerto Rico is not working on any amendment not does it support amendments to the PROMESA law. As with all backstage rumors –added Sánchez– one (eventually) finds out. But, those are not the government’s interests. I don’t think Congress will waste its time on that.”
The apparent attempt to condition a new allocation for Medicaid became known after authorities from the Puerto Rican government and health Industry representatives expressed optimism in that a budget resolution to be passed this or next week, will include up to $900 million for the federal fiscal year.
The idea is to mitigate the depletion later this year of the Medicaid funds granted by Obamacare which have meant about $1.2 billion per year.
Though he has not seen any specific language, democrat congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (New York) warned that if the proposal to postpone the effect of Title III of PROMESA is floored the democratic leadership in Congress will fight it.
Even though the spending resolution in effect expires tomorrow, Friday, in the event an agreement is not reached the consequences of a possible partial shutdown of the federal government would be felt more strongly on Monday. But, the possibility of passing a resolution of just a few days to wait for another that adds other matters is still alive. “There is an 80% chance that all will be solved by next week," said commissioner González.
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