Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenTrump was wrong: Kaine is a liberal in a moderate's clothing Progressive groups urge Clinton to lead fight against a TPP vote Amazon hires antitrust lobbyist MORE is tying a long-brewing battle over the Puerto Rico financial crisis to an energy bill currently before the Senate.
Warren ties Puerto Rico fight to energy bill
The Massachusetts Democrat is offering an amendment to a wide-ranging energy reform bill from Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Big Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund MORE (R-Alaska). Warren's proposal would help temporarily protect Puerto Rico from debt collectors until April 1.
Democratic Sens. Richard BlumenthalRichard Blumenthal'Power problem' grounds southern Florida flights Dem senator's daughter could face Congress over EpiPen price hike Airlines brace for boost in travel volumes over Labor Day MORE (Conn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMoving beyond minimal: Fighting for paid family and medical leave McAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (N.Y.) Bob MenendezRobert MenendezConfirm Julien Neals for the district of New Jersey Puerto Rico task force asks for help in charting island's economic course Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (N.J.), Chris MurphyChris MurphyThe Trail 2016: Trump works to widen his appeal Lawmakers amplify criticism of US support for Saudi bombing campaign Congress must take action to block weapon sales to Saudi Arabia MORE (Conn.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonNew study. Space, security, and Congress Puerto Rico task force asks for help in charting island's economic course Making the switch to a more competitive freight rail industry MORE (Fla.) and Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTrump was wrong: Kaine is a liberal in a moderate's clothing Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration Rubio primary challenger loans campaign M MORE (N.Y.) are backing Warren's amendment.
The senators argue that "a temporary stay on litigation is essential to facilitate an orderly process for stabalizing, evaluating, and comprehensively resolving" Puerto Rico's crisis.
A vote on the amendment hasn't been scheduled, but trying to link the two issues would place a deeply partisan fight into an otherwise uncontroversial energy bill.
Warren, Blumenthal, Schumer and Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Reid10 most expensive House races McConnell: Senate won't take up TPP this year Politicians can’t afford to ignore Latinos MORE (D-Nev.) introduced similar legislation last month, suggesting the temporary stay on creditor lawsuits would give Congress enough time to pass "comprehensive relief" for Puerto Rico.
Warren's latest move comes after every Senate Democrat united earlier this week to push Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSanders, Merkley back McConnell decision to skip TPP vote John McCain: No longer a profile in courage McConnell: Senate won't take up TPP this year MORE (R-Ky.) to bring up legislation that would allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy.
"If Congress doesn't act and give Puerto Rico the chance to restructure its debt, schools will shutter, utilities will be switched off, the sputtering economy will grind to a halt. It will be a nightmare, a nightmare," Schumer told reporters Wednesday.
Puerto Rican officials have been pushing lawmakers for months to take up legislation, with Democrats arguing that Congress accidentally withheld bankruptcy power from territories when it rewrote part of the U.S. code.
While Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanDonald Trump hasn’t moved an inch on immigration Politicians share pup pics for National Dog Day Father of slain reporter rails against ‘orange-faced Fuhrer’ MORE (R-Wis.) pledged that House lawmakers would work to come up with a solution by the end of March, how to solve Puerto Rico's financial crisis has divided senators.
A push by Schumer to pass legislation that gave Puerto Rico access to bankruptcy courts was blocked late last year by Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP lawmakers call for overhaul of proposed corporate tax rules DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion Trump op-ed counters Clinton’s pitch to Utah voters MORE (R-Utah), who chairs the Finance Committee.
While both sides pledged to work together, Hatch suggested this week that huge policy and political gaps remain.
"I haven't heard much from the other side, but I'm prepared to work on it," he told reporters.
Hatch added that Democrats have focused on allowing Puerto Rico access to bankruptcy courts—a move he doesn't support.
Hatch, as well as Murkowski and Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley: Mylan not going far enough with EpiPen discounts Five things to know about the Clinton Foundation and its donors Clinton calls for EpiPen maker to lower price MORE (R-Iowa), have introduced alternative legislation. While it doesn't allow Puerto Rico to have access to bankruptcy courts, it would give the island territory up to $3 billion in federal assistance.
McConnell, who hasn't signed onto the GOP legislation, suggested that while lawmakers were broadly concerned about the Puerto Rico fiscal crisis, what Congress should do about it is unclear.
"We have a lot of discussion about what to do and as long as it doesn't involve the use of federal tax dollars, I think it is something we ought to try to figure out some way forward on," he told reporters on Wednesday. "Exactly what the way forward is at this point, I'm not sure."