Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWasserman Schultz departure unites Dems Tim Kaine: A progressive with results Juan Williams: Dems must not be complacent against Trump 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 MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Alaska). Warren's proposal would help temporarily protect Puerto Rico from debt collectors until April 1.
Democratic Sens. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Congress sends first major opioid bill to Obama's desk Opioid package clears key Senate hurdle MORE (Conn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic National Convention event calendar Texas rep uses Snapchat to prompt border control discussions GOP probes EPA response to NY state water contamination MORE (N.Y.) Bob MenendezRobert MenendezGMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Menendez rails against Puerto Rico bill for 4 hours on floor MORE (N.J.), Chris MurphyChris MurphyWeek ahead in health: All eyes turn to Dem convention Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (Conn.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonMore automakers admit to equipping new cars with defective airbags GOP warming up to Cuba travel How the new aviation law will affect your travel MORE (Fla.) and Charles SchumerCharles SchumerConvention Shows Democrats Support Fracking, Activists on the Fringe Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security The Trail 2016: Unity at last 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 ReidDem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security Super-PAC targets Portman on trade Dem leader urges compromise on FCC set-top box plan 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 McConnellProgressive group changes tone on Kaine Trump hits Kaine on TPP: He supports a 'job killer' Clinton maps out first 100 days 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 RyanTrump, Clinton intelligence briefings likely to start next week Clinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform 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 HatchBacteria found ahead of Olympics underscores need for congressional action for new antibiotics Burr pledges to retire after one more Senate term Leaders appoint allies, adversaries to Puerto Rico growth task force 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 GrassleyTop Dem Senate hopefuls to skip convention Election to shape Supreme Court Why one senator sees Gingrich as Trump's best VP choice 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."