Politicians in Washington are coalescing around a financial plan to rescue Puerto Rico, just weeks before an expected major default on bond payments that would spread more turmoil through the island’s shaky economy.
The plan, being drafted as legislation by House Republicans, would not grant Puerto Rico’s most fervent request: permission to restructure its entire $72 billion debt in bankruptcy. It would, however, give the island certain crucial tools that bankruptcy proceedings can offer — but only if it first comes under close federal oversight and meets other conditions.
The oversight would be provided by a five-member voting board, selected by the president of the United States from candidates with expertise in finance, law or other relevant fields; at least two would have their primary residence in Puerto Rico. The secretary of the Treasury and the governor of Puerto Rico would also serve on the board, but would not have a vote.
The board would have offices both in Washington and San Juan, and would have the power to subpoena documents from both governments. It would audit Puerto Rico’s government, improve operations, find savings and ultimately determine how much of the $72 billion debt really has to be restructured, if any. The creation of such a board has been highly controversial on the island, where some residents and officials have called it an act of “colonialism,” and expressed some concern about outsiders making financial decisions — like budget cuts — that could adversely affect island residents.
The rescue package is primarily the work of House Republicans under the direction of Paul Ryan, the House speaker, in consultation with the Treasury Department and Democratic leaders, including RepresentativeNancy Pelosi, the minority leader…..