FOMB, José Carrión III

FOMB was established by Congress under PROMESA in 2016 to oversee Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring. >Carlos Rivera Giusti

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB) has welcomed the Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) unanimous decision that will allow the federal government- appointed entity to continue its mandate of lifting the island out of its fiscal crisis.

Others, though, saw the decision by SCOTUS as a clear sign of the island’s colonial status.

The FOMB was created in 2016 under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa), a federal law to oversee the restructuring process of the island’s public debt and other obligations, which is roughly $129 billion.

“The Supreme Court confirmed that Promesa established the Oversight Board as an entity within the Government of Puerto Rico and that the congressionally mandated process for selecting members of the Oversight Board does not violate the Constitution’s Appointments Clause,” the board said in a missive. The Appointments Clause is a provision that gives Congress significant control over U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico.

“Promesa’s appointment process has established a bipartisan Oversight Board, ensuring balanced decisions to help Puerto Rico recover and prosper. The Members of the Oversight Board have an important mandate: to help Puerto Rico recover from an unsustainable debt burden and decades of fiscal mismanagement. The Oversight Board has been renegotiating Puerto Rico’s debt and has been steadily working toward instituting long term fiscal planning and balanced budgeting,” the board added.

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González — Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress — rejected the Supreme Court’s decision, denouncing that it reaffirms the island’s territorial status. González, a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), affirmed that the ruling reiterates that Puerto Rico is “a colony with no political or economic power.”

“The powers of the Board are powers that Congress cannot impose on a state. This decision shows once again that if Puerto Rico wants to have control of local affairs, it must become a state,” she said.

Her statements were echoed by fellow NPP member and gubernatorial hopeful Pedro Pierluisi, who also seized the opportunity to push the pro-statehood agenda ahead of another political status referendum. However, back in 2016 — when he served as resident commissioner — Pierluisi tweeted, “Promesa is the best opportunity that we have to solve the immediate fiscal crisis in PR and get it on track for a better future.”

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Sen. Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) — and gubernatorial candidate — also voiced his opposition, opining that the decision validates the assertion that Puerto Rico is a colony, thus lacking autonomy.

The controversial case stemmed from a constitutional challenge to the oversight board’s composition led by hedge funds that invested in Puerto Rican bonds. A lower court ruled in 2019 that the board’s members were appointed in violation of the Constitution because they were not confirmed by the Senate.

The president selects the board’s seven voting members. They and one other nonvoting member chosen by Puerto Rico’s governor approve budgets and fiscal plans drawn up by the island’s government. The board also handles bankruptcy-like cases that allow the island to restructure its debts.

In his opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the board’s makeup is not controlled by the Constitution’s provision on appointments, but by the Appointments Clause.

“The Board’s statutory responsibilities consist of primarily local duties, namely, representing Puerto Rico in bankruptcy proceedings and supervising aspects of Puerto Rico’s fiscal and budgetary policies. We therefore find that the Board members are not ‘Officers of the United States.’ For that reason, the Appointments Clause does not dictate how the Board’s members must be selected,” Breyer wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Reporter for The Weekly Journal. She is a journalist with experience in social media management and digital marketing. Giovanna is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Digital Narratives at Sacred Heart University in San Juan.

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