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Lew Calls New Puerto Rico Bill ‘Fair, but Tough’

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday welcomed a new House bill that would give Puerto Rico debt restructuring tools, despite disappointment with how the legislation deals with labor and health care issues.

“The bill represents a fair, but tough bipartisan compromise,” Lew said in a statement. “Congress must stand firm and resist calls from financial interests to undermine this effort every step of the way – in committee, on the House floor and in the Senate.”

Lew said the administration is disappointed with “extraneous provisions in the bill, such as those regarding labor standards, which will not help address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.”

A portion of the measure would allow Puerto Rico’s governor to lower the island’s minimum wage, while another provision would exempt the commonwealth from the Labor Department’s recently finalized overtime rule that takes effect Dec. 1.

“We are disappointed the bill does not include our proposals to promote economic growth and provide a long-term Medicaid solution,” Lew said.

In a separate statement today, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona , the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the Treasury Department made clear “this combination of oversight and debt restructuring will work, and that is a significant achievement.”

“This is not the bill I would write and we are well aware that an oversight board will never be the first choice of many in Puerto Rico,” Grijalva said. “This legislation is a compromise, so of course there are aspects that cause me concern.”