Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a harsh statement on Friday concerning a proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives that seeks to place Puerto Rico under the control of a congressionally-appointed financial control board. Instead of representing the debt-ridden people of Puerto Rico, Sanders believes the control board will solely promote the economic interests of Wall Street.
“We must never give an unelected control board the power to balance Puerto Rico’s budget on the backs of children, senior citizens, the sick and the most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico while giving the people of Puerto Rico absolutely no say at all in the process,” Sanders released a statement on Friday. “We cannot allow Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to determine the fate of Puerto Rico by handpicking a majority of the control board’s members, while the people of Puerto Rico would be in charge of choosing none. That may make sense to groups representing Wall Street, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.”
Known as the PROMESA, H.R. 4900 would establish an oversight board to manage Puerto Rico’s finances while allowing the territory to restructure its $72 billion in debt through the courts. Under the legislation, seven board members will be selected from a list of candidates drawn up by both parties, including the Speaker, Senate majority leader, the president, and the House and Senate minority leaders.
“Among other efforts, what Congress should do is to act immediately to give Puerto Rico the same authority granted to every municipality in this country to restructure its debt under the supervision of a bankruptcy court,” Sanders continued. “The billionaire hedge fund managers on Wall Street cannot get a 100 percent return on their bonds while workers, senior citizens and children are punished. Wall Street vulture capitalists must not be allowed to get it all.”
Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton claims to have “serious concerns” about parts of the plan, she has supported the bill while suggesting that President Obama should sign it quickly. On Friday, Clinton stated, “We must move forward with this legislation. Otherwise, without any means of addressing this crisis, too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer.”
“We need austerity for billionaire Wall Street hedge fund managers who have exacerbated the financial crisis in Puerto Rico,” Sanders asserted. “We don’t need more austerity for children in Puerto Rico who are going hungry.”
Roughly one month before the U.S. entered World War I on April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act which granted U.S. citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico. After passing the Selective Service Act of 1917, Congress was able to impose mandatory conscription into the U.S. military on Puerto Ricans just as the U.S. entered the Great War.
“Today, I am proud to stand in strong opposition to this bill not only with the people of Puerto Rico, but the AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW and other unions that recognize just how bad this bill would be,” Sanders announced on Friday. “We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the American citizens of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”