Senate Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief

Senate Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief

Senate Democrats are pushing to amend a House-passed debt relief bill for Puerto Rico, and one says he won’t rule out blocking the bill if they don’t get the chance.

"I will consider all of my options if I don't get a chance to amend it,” Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezCNN anchors break into laughter over comedian's alleged prank call to Trump Comedian claims he tricked Trump while impersonating Dem senator Schumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms MORE (D-N.J.), a long-time critic of the House bill, said Thursday.

Menendez could put a “hold” on the bill, blocking it from consideration unless at least 60 senators vote to advance it. 

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Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to schedule a vote right before the Senate breaks for its July 4 recess. That would force Democrats to back the bill without a chance to amend it.

A senior Senate Republican leadership aide said this month that any amendments would need unanimous approval, and a senior Democratic leadership aide said most Democrats would support the bill without a chance to amend it.

No Senate Democrat publicly supports the bill despite it passing the House with wide bipartisan support. The legislation is backed by the White House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record MORE (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and the Obama administration is putting heavy pressure on Democrats to fall in line.

That pressure hasn’t moved Democrats concerned about the power the bill gives the oversight board it establishes, and provisions affecting Puerto Rico’s minimum wage and exemption from a Labor Department overtime rule.

"I don't like much the way it is, but I also know the House wants to punish Puerto Rico. That's how they play this, because they want to use this to weaken labor laws,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices could offer a way forward in fight against mushrooming costs MORE (D-Ohio). "Every opportunity that Republicans in Congress get to weaken labor laws, they exercise it."

Obama administration officials are flexing their muscle to quash Democratic concerns. Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, and his special counsel, Antonio Weiss, spoke out in support of the bill in a Thursday panel.

The goal is to enact the bill before Puerto Rico faces a $2 billion debt payment due July 1. Some Senate Democrats say they’re eager to pass the bill before then, but can’t support it as is.

“There's no reason to put a hold on the bill if you're given opportunities for amendments,” Menendez said. "I take the majority leader's word at the beginning of this Congress that we need more amendments and a more open process. The people of Puerto Rico deserve no less."