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Puerto Rico Bill At an Impasse as GOP Demands More Looting Right

April 15, 2016 (EIRNS)—After markup on H.R. 4900 drafted by the House Natural Resources Committee to address the Puerto Rican crisis, was abruptly canceled on April 14, House Speaker Paul Ryan called all 246 Republican members to meet behind closed doors today to review the status of the legislation, and attempt to resolve disagreements.

As of now, there is no fixed deadline by which a bipartisan bill could be voted on, although May 1 has been mentioned as a possibility. That is the date on which Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank (GDB) has $422 mn. coming due, but, as the Bank’s president Melba Acosta has indicated, cannot be paid. Ryan has warned that if this default on General Obligation bonds occurs, it will wreak havoc on the U.S. municipal bond market.

Republicans grouped in the conservative Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Tex.), and the Freedom Caucus,scream that the bill is a "tax-payer" bailout, and sets a bad precedent for other states or municipalities facing economic crisis. Many conservative GOPers complain that, were voluntary negotiations to fail, creditors will have to accept a forceful restructuring or writedown of the debt (known as a cram down) which might prioritize pensioners and unions over other classes of creditors. God forbid!

Democrats oppose the strict financial control board proposal included in the bill, which would take precedence over the decisions of the Governor and local elected officials on crucial financial matters. Nor do they accept the proposal that the federal minimum wage should be lowered to $4.25, for young people between 20-24 years of age.

Republicans coming out of today’s meeting indicated that it could be "some time" before a bill is ready, recognizing that any bill voted up in the House without Democratic backing, will definitely not pass in the Senate.

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