April 19, 2016

PRERI Calls For Action In Letter To House Natural Resources Committee

April 19, 2016

The Honorable Rob Bishop, Chairman
The Honorable Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member
Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva, and Members of the Committee:

As the many hearings your committee has held in the past several months show, there is no question that Puerto Rico is facing a fiscal crisis with widespread humanitarian impact of unimaginable proportions.  I write you on behalf of the Puerto Rico Economic Recovery Initiative (PRERI) and the 3.4 million Americans living in Puerto Rico, and urge the committee to consider the immediate ramifications if Congress fails to act and Puerto Rico is forced to default on its debts.  The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), filed as H.R 4900by Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI), is an excellent first step in mitigating the threat a default in Puerto Rico would have to Americans across the nation. This is the first step of many in helping move the island commonwealth toward sustained economic growth.

Let’s be clear – this legislation is not a “bail out” of Puerto Rico.  It is most unfortunate that big-money interest groups, who stand to handsomely profit from this humanitarian crisis, are smearing the good name and intentions of many Members of Congress.  The truth is that this bill deals with the unintended consequences created by 118 years of Puerto Rico being an “unincorporated” territory of the United States.  You and your committee are courageously addressing the reality Americans in Puerto Rico face.

Puerto Rico is American soil.  It has been the case since 1898, and the Congress, under Article 4 of the Constitution, has the ability – I would say obligation – to act with speed in addressing the looming debt crisis and recoupling Puerto Rico’s economic viability to the rest of the nation.

Congress must construct the tools  Puerto Rico needs to  restructure its debt.  Regardless of what others might say – there is not one federal law on the books today that can accomplish the task your committee has been asked to complete.  That’s exactly the reason why your leadership is so important.  H.R. 4900 will not cost the federal government  one dime.

On the other hand, doing nothing – and creating the conditions for a major default in Puerto Rico – will slip the island’s government into chaos and assures the federal government funds a bailout.  Congress must act before it reaches that point.  Speaker Paul Ryan understands this and has said, “My number one priority as speaker of the House with respect to this issue is to keep the American taxpayer away from this.  There will be no taxpayer bailout.”  Speaker Ryan is correct, Congress must bring order to this chaos.

It is in everyone’s best interests to act swiftly to provide debt restructuring capabilities to avert this humanitarian crisis.  Our American brothers and sisters on the island are suffering, and it’s important to remember that they are indeed citizens, some of which have given their lives in service to their country.  In fact, the 65th Infantry Regiment – the Puerto Rico regiment of the U.S. Army – just last week was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal for their heroic service during both World War I and II, and the Korean War, at the same time Congress was debating the merits of addressing the suffering of Americans living in Puerto Rico.  Congress cannot turn its back on fellow Americans – doing so would be shameful.

We are quickly approaching May 1, 2016.  A default on Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank bonds is imminent.  Time has nearly run out.  I join with other pragmatic conservative voices, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), as well as the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and others to urge the committee – and Congress as a whole – to do their due diligence and pass PROMESA to help avoid a true humanitarian catastrophe affecting Americans across the nation.


Javier Ortiz
Executive Director
Puerto Rico Economic Recovery Initiative