Washington - The U.S. Senate was still waiting last night to officially receive the nominations of the current seven members of the Oversight Board, following President Donald Trump's decision to submit them for confirmation.
On one hand, the leader of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), in charge of the confirmation process, is closely following the Board's petition to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The Board is seeking that the appellate court authorizes its operation at least until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to review the decision declaring unconstitutional the appointments made in August 2016.
On the other hand, she was waiting for President Trump to formally submit the nominations and related documents.
"We have just received the names. We now have to process them through the Committee. We have to go through the evaluation process," Murkowski told El Nuevo Día.
When told that they would only have two weeks, Murkowski said, "They better speed up the process."
In a statement renewing criticisms of corruption and mismanagement against the Puerto Rican government and politicians, Trump announced Monday night that he will send the Senate the nominations of the seven members of the Board: José Carrión, David Skeel, Andrew Biggs, Carlos García, Ana Matosantos, José Ramón González, and Arthur González.
If the appointments will follow the traditional process, then the seven members will have to answer questions - some of which probably prepared by the White House when examining the records- and go to a public hearing, before a voting session in the committee and the Senate floor.
Congressional affairs experts agreed that it will take an expeditious process to accomplish all that in two weeks even under a bipartisan agreement in the Senate where Republicans have a 53-47 majority.
Both Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González refused, separately, to take a position for or against the appointments, while calling on the Board to promote economic development initiatives.
"I am against the Board. I'm not going to classify Trump's decision," González said.
While the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Democrat Raúl Grijalva (Arizona) and Nydia Velázquez (New York) welcomed the nominations to continue with the debt restructuring process, they urged the Senate to pressure the Board regarding austerity measures, lack of economic development initiatives and conflicts of interest complaints.
"The Senate should not allow (confirmation) until it ensures that (the Board) is free of conflicts of interest. I don't think that's the case right now," Grijalva told El Nuevo Día, after participating in a congressional briefing on his committee's agenda for PROMESA and the hearing on this issue this Thursday.
"Dealing with this President is not easy," Velázquez said, but she added that Board members must also reassure the Senate that they will use PROMESA "not only to pay creditors,” but that their responsibility is to promote economic development in Puerto Rico.
Velázquez is in conversations with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (New York) to advance her bill seeking to fill the gap left by PROMESA in terms of conflicts of interest of contractors, such as the McKinsey consulting firm, which has a $12 million contract and handles the organizational structure of the Board's fiscal agenda.
"The Board´s decision-making process should be based on data, not on the interests of creditors or McKinsey," Velázquez said. Grijalva reiterated his support to that bill.
However, Grijalva acknowledged that the appointments seek to address the decision of the First Circuit that threatens to interrupt the operation of the Board on May 16.
"If the First Circuit´s decision had not been addressed, the Board would have collapsed and three years of work on debt restructuring would have been lost. We are close to a final restructuring agreement on Puerto Rico's largest remaining debt, and it is in the best interests of the Puerto Rican people to reach an agreement without interruption," Grijalva said.
After meeting with Grijalva, Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Representative Luis Vega Ramos, who is in Washington this week, said he urged him to maintain firm oversight of the Board's decisions and actions.
Regarding the nominations announced by Trump, Alexandra Ojeda, spokeswoman for Republican Rick Scott (Florida), said the senator "is in the process of reviewing the nominations.