House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said next week will mark the beginning of the chamber’s effort to find a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
In a floor colloquy with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Scalise pointed to a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Jan. 12 as evidence that Republicans are starting the process of remedying the issue. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has set the end of March as an unofficial deadline for finding a solution.
Scalise said the hearing, titled “Exploring Energy Challenges and Opportunities Facing Puerto Rico,” will deal primarily with the commonwealth’s fiscal woes, and that it will be the first hearing focused on the topic. Natural Resources is one of the three House committees with jurisdiction over legislation affecting Puerto Rico’s debt, in addition to Ways & Means and Judiciary.
“Puerto Rico’s facing a serious debt crisis and is in need for structural reform, and that’s critical,” Scalise said today on the House floor. “That’s why our committees [are] starting the process of examining solutions. In keeping with Speaker Ryan’s commitment to regular order, it’s important that we allow the committees of jurisdiction to work through these issues to put forward the best solutions to a bad situation.”
Congress has not come up with an agreed-upon solution to the debt crisis, though several proposals have been floated.
Hoyer said he favored a plan supported by several Democrats: giving Puerto Rico the legal authority to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Republican lawmakers have rejected this proposal, and Scalise did not refer to the proposal today on the floor.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has suggested reallocating $3 billion in Affordable Care Act funds in order to give Puerto Rico more time to implement structural reforms.