Democratic News

“Thank you, Mr. President. I come to the floor to ask my colleagues to not vote for cloture on this measure and to give the Senate a chance to work its will.

“Many people know that this legislation is being brought over from the House. I appreciate the good relationship I have with my colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and I would love the opportunity to have input into this legislation, as many of my colleagues would, with just a simple amendment process. That is being denied here today if we, basically invoke cloture.

“Everybody has admitted that this is a flawed bill. There is not one person who has done a presentation on this that hasn't admitted that it's a flawed product from the House of Representatives. So why not take a little bit of time today and improve that bill? Why not let the Senate work its will, as we do on so many issues? Because we have the time. As I think my colleague from New Jersey will prove, we are definitely going to be here for a few days doing nothing. So why not instead of sitting here doing nothing, take the chance to improve a bill that, by all accounts, is flawed?

“Also, there is so much discussion that somehow July 1 is a magic date. Well, actually, July 11 is the next scheduled legal hearing on this, and that is plenty of time for the United States Senate to weigh in on a few ways to improve this legislation and to make sure that we are not suspending the constitutionality of Puerto Rico in the process.

“There are many questionable issues about the structure of this bill. I certainly prefer a structure that is clean and simple, understood by my colleagues and is going to lead to success by all of us. Why do I say that? Because the continued wrangling over the debt in Puerto Rico by a process that will be challenged on its constitutionality means that Puerto Rico will continue to be bled, the United States government will continue to be bled and we will not get a resolution of this issue.

“The appointments clause requires that these officers, whose appointments fall under the authority stipulated in federal law, be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But if this bill is enacted, we are going to have board members that have significant authority over federal law, and they're not appointed by the president and they're not confirmed by the Senate. So it's going to be challenged constitutionally.

“Why is this important? Because there are hedge funds out there that took Argentina’s debt, and it took almost a decade to reach a resolution because they could not win in court. We want a process here in which all of the debt is part of a discussion and in which people can offer solutions as to how to get out of this situation by giving the structure of bankruptcy authority to Puerto Rico.

“Also, there are questions about this board and who they are. Besides the fact that they are likely to be challenged in court as unconstitutional, I brought up a point last night that they can actually receive gifts. Gifts from whom? What gifts? What can the board receive? Is it cars? Is it equipment? Is it airplanes? What is it that they can receive?

“So we are here now to say, ‘let's take the time instead to make sure that we are going through this process and improving the bill in the Senate.’ I think this is something that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can appreciate. What is hard to appreciate is that this small group of people is being given some very large powers.

“This group of people— just a simple majority of four of them—appointed by the two leaders of the Senate and the House can approve the fiscal plan for Puerto Rico, approve the budget for Puerto Rico, set aside an active law by the Puerto Rican legislature, and disapprove or approve and expedite permitting of projects. So this is a lot of power. If you don't think someone is going to challenge the constitutionality of this, I guarantee you that they are going to challenge it. In the meantime, we will have legal wrangling and a continued process.

“I urge my colleagues to vote ‘no’ on this legislation. Give the Senate a chance to work its will and make sure that we are protecting U.S. taxpayers from the amount of debt we will be seeing with this legislation if we don't move forward in an orderly fashion. I thank the chair, and I yield the floor.”