Hillary Clinton is on board with the bi-partisan plan to rescue Puerto Rico from near economic collapse.
The White House and the House reached a deal late Wednesday to aid Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that has amassed $70 billion in debt and has been languishing in recession for nearly a decade. The Senate is expected to go along with the bill.
Clinton isn’t thrilled. She says she has “serious concerns” about parts of the plan, but she believes Congress should pass it and President Obama should sign it quickly.
“We must move forward with this legislation,” Clinton said Friday. “Otherwise, without any means of addressing this crisis, too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer.”
The crisis is so bad that Puerto Ricans are fleeing the island daily. They are packing up and re-locating to Florida, Texas and elsewhere at a rate not seen since the “West Side Story” era of the 1950s.
The compromise bill is known as the PROMESA, the Spanish word for “promise.” It would create an Oversight Board to control the island’s finances and come up with a plan to pay back the massive debt. The solution could include paying creditors less than 100% or delaying payments.
Puerto Rico has already defaulted three times, meaning it didn’t have enough money to pay its bills to creditors. Another large payment is due on July 1.
Clinton has concerns that the Oversight Board will exert too much control over the island. Puerto Rico’s governor has compared the board to being ruled again by colonial overloads. He says it’s “not consistent with basic American democratic principles.”
But Clinton says if she is elected president, she will ensure the Oversight Board acts in the best interests of Puerto Ricans.
Despite being U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans who live on the island cannot vote for president in the general election in November, but they do get to vote in the presidential primaries. Puerto Rico’s Democratic primary is June 5.
Clinton’s rival Bernie Sanders has campaigned in Puerto Rico and said that he would support allowing the island to become a state or even an independent nation. He blames Wall Street for Puerto Rico’s troubles.
While Clinton didn’t go that far, she did scold Wall Street funds that bought Puerto Rican debt while it was cheap in the hope of making a big profit.
“We can no longer sit idly by while hedge funds seek to maximize their profits at the island’s expense,” says Clinton.
The Obama administration thinks the top priority is to give Puerto Rico a clear path to restructure its debts, meaning the island might be able to delay payments or not pay back the full amount. The PROMESA bill does provide an option for debt restructuring.