New Puerto Rico Bill Slated for Wednesday Rollout

Bishop will vet new Puerto Rico bill with committee members. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

Lawmakers are planning to roll out a new bill to help Puerto Rico restructure its debt on Wednesday, Morning Consult has learned.

According to a committee aide, the new language will be introduced under a new bill number. The current plan is to have Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) remain the bill’s lead sponsor. He sponsors the current bill, H.R. 4900.

At this point, according to the aide, the new bill will contain new language to further clarify the existing legal and constitutional prioritization of Puerto Rico’s creditors, and the fiscal oversight board’s role in preserving that lineup.

The Natural Resources panel, which has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico, will hold off on voting for the legislation until the following week, the aide said. That will give members of the committee time to go over the bill, understand its changes, and decide on possible amendments they want to offer at the markup.

The committee’s schedule could change at any moment, given the fluidity of the debate over how Congress should be involved in the debt crisis. Last month, after it became clear that House Republicans, Democrats and the Treasury Department all believed the bill needed to be improved, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) postponed a previously scheduled markup.

Bishop said late last week that he wouldn’t unveil the new language until House members return from a weeklong recess. For several weeks, Bishop has said the new language wouldn’t be too different from what’s in H.R. 4900.

The Treasury Department, which has been involved in substantive negotiations over the bill and is seen as a key player in determining how many Democrats support it, did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the talks.

If the Natural Resources panel successfully advances the measure, floor consideration could be swift. House leaders have made clear that passing Puerto Rico legislation with bipartisan support is a priority for both sides, meaning consideration could come as soon as this month, or the week after the committee vote.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did not respond to a request for more information on timing, and a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan deferred to McCarthy’s office.

Morning Consult