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House Panel Planning Minor Rewrite of Puerto Rico Measure

Lawmakers led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop are planning to redraft legislation to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, Bishop told reporters Friday.

“We’ll probably drop another bill, but it’s not going to be a major change, it’s not like we’re totally starting from scratch,” the Utah Republican said. Although Bishop said the new measure largely will be identical to the current legislation, H.R. 4900, he declined to say what specific aspects could be retooled. Members still have concerns about making the bill’s oversight board “do what the board is supposed to do,” he added.

He also said that a delay of the legislation past Puerto Rico’s upcoming debt service payment in May could give Congress more impetus to pass a bill by making it clear that the crisis isn’t being overhyped.

“There is some pressure, and let’s face it — if we all can’t get together by May 1 and there is a [missed payment] and creditors start suing again, maybe that will reinforce: This is a serious issue,” he said. “There are still some voices out there saying, eh, this is Y2K.”

When asked if he’s willing to drop a provision that would allow Puerto Rico’s governor to lower the island’s minimum wage, Bishop signaled he was reluctant to do so.

“What we’re talking about is giving them some authority to do a whole bunch of things to add economic viability,” he said. “That is one of them.”

Bishop held open the possibility that the Natural Resources Committee could hold a markup of the new legislation next week, but added it would be a “quick turnaround.”

This story has been updated to include Bishop’s remarks on the minimum wage provision.