When the House Committee on Natural Resources resumes its work this afternoon in the federal capital, the discussion of a proposal to amend the federal law that created the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB) will take center stage again, but this time with lower expectations.
Last week, Republican Representative Rob Bishop, from Utah, distanced himself from any efforts to amend the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa). In a press release, he called the hearing a charade, immediately casting doubts on the reach of the legislative exercise.
"The people of Puerto Rico are being belittled by Democrats and their farcical hearing intended for headlines instead of solving problems," declared Bishop, the minority leader in the committee and the politician who promoted the legislation that gave birth to the polemic federal law. "The Democrats' draft legislation is a distraction that uses a complex crisis for trivial pandering."
Proposes amendments to Promesa to audit the island’s debt and ensure greater transparency
Against this backdrop, local politicians and public officials engaged in a debate over the strengths and weaknesses of the draft bill by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee.
Today, other voices will join the conversation on this second and final hearing. Sitting at the table will be Heriberto Martínez, president of the Economists Association; Alvin Velázquez, associate general counsel of the Service Employees International Union; Liliana Cubano, president of the Puerto Rico Products Association; and Lyvan A. Buntin Rivera, a student representative from the University of Puerto Rico, among the nine people invited to delve into the dicey proposition to make Promesa and the imposition of an oversight board not elected by the people of Puerto Rico "more democratic".
In general terms, Grijalva's proposal seeks to move the board's funding from the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth to the federal government, as well as to protect essential services, order an audit of the island's debt and reduce the powers of the FOMB.
Last month, the U.S Treasury Department informed Gov. Wanda Vázquez that the local governmen…
While the veteran politician from Arizona recognized the difficulty of advancing the proposed legislation in the current political landscape, Grijalva defended the work arguing he has a responsibility to identify provisions and lay the foundation for the moment the political situation changes.
Even if the House of Representatives approves this bill, the Senate, dominated by Republicans, would have to agree to any amendments to Promesa. Then, if the bill cleared that hurdle, it would move on to the desk of President Donald Trump, who on many instances has described Puerto Rico as one of "the most corrupt places on earth" and whose government officials have recognized publicly that they are withholding the disaster aid allocated by Congress for the recuperation process of the island.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL reached out to Grijalva to inquire about future moves and the possibility of establishing a working partnership with other republican counterparts, but the representative turned down the request for an interview.