Senate Democrats want to temporarily shield Puerto Rico from debt lawsuits as lawmakers try to reach an agreement on how to help the debt-ridden territory.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalCalifornia National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Dems demand anti-LGBT language be taken out of defense bill Senate Dems want major women's golf event moved off Trump course MORE (Conn.), as well Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), introduced legislation Friday that would place a stay on creditor lawsuits through March.
The senators argue the extra time would let lawmakers pass "comprehensive relief" legislation, which Democrats argue should allow Puerto Rico to have access to bankruptcy courts, allowing it to restructure its debt.
Reid suggested lawmakers must pass the legislation during the first quarter of next year, saying that "inaction is not an option."
"These citizens need and deserve the support of their government to get through this difficult period, and it is Congress' responsibility to give them the same tools available to all the states," he added.
Meanwhile, Warren suggested that with Republican leadership suggesting they will work to pass legislation by the end of March, the Democrats' proposal would give Puerto Rico "critical legal protections" until then.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said earlier this week that he's ordered lawmakers to come up with a solution during the first quarter of 2016.
"While we could not agree to including precedent-setting changes to bankruptcy law in this omnibus spending bill, I understand that many members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to addressing the challenges facing the territory," he said in a statement.
Democrats voiced frustration that that the omnibus legislation, which President Obama signed Friday, should have included stronger relief provisions for Puerto Rico.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has introduced a similar bill to the legislation rolled out Friday.
Schumer tried to get unanimous consent on the Senate floor earlier this month to pass a separate piece of legislation that he introduced with Blumenthal earlier this year but was blocked by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
That legislation would have allowed the island access to bankruptcy courts, which the New York Democrat stressed at the time wasn't a "bailout."
Hatch — who has introduced an alternative proposal — said that while lawmakers would continue to talk over the holiday recess, it likely wouldn't include the bankruptcy measure.
"We're not going to go that way as far as I'm concerned. Chapter 9 would only solve about 30 percent of the problem," he told reporters this week. "I think we're going to have to find a better route than that."