Sanders calls on Democrats to oppose Puerto Rico debt bill

Sanders calls on Democrats to oppose Puerto Rico debt bill
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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE is calling on Senate Democrats to oppose a bipartisan bill aimed at defusing Puerto Rico's debt crisis, breaking with the White House and his rival in the 2016 race, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE.

The Vermont senator said Monday the bill “would make a terrible situation even worse,” citing a control board that the legislation would establish for the territory.

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"We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the American citizens of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve," Sanders wrote in a Monday letter to Senate Democrats.

Puerto Rico will be holding its Democratic presidential primary on June 5.

Sanders said he objects to the board's power to override the territorial government. The most recent version of the bill arms a seven-person fiscal oversight board with substantial power. The board can override any territorial government act it deems to violate the bill, request audited financial statements, subpoena witnesses and impose criminal penalities.

"We must never give an unelected control board the power to make life and death decisions for the people of Puerto Rico without any meaninigful input from them at all," Sanders wrote.

Sanders announced his opposition to the new Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act on Thursday.

An updated version of the debt bill was introduced last Wednesday. Along with Clinton and the White House, the legislation is supported by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Other notable progressives shared Sanders's concerns about the control board, but still supported the bill.

“This is not the bill I would write. … This legislation is a compromise, so of course there are aspects that cause me concern,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee--the panel handling the bill--and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “But I am even more concerned about the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the island.”

Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and José Serrano (D-N.Y.), both Puerto Rican themselves, also supported the bill.

--Updated at 12:07 p.m.