House Dems: GOP Puerto Rico bill still unacceptable
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The head of the House Democratic Caucus said Tuesday that Republicans' emergent proposal to help Puerto Rico weather its debt crisis will need significant changes before it gets support across the aisle.

"Some of the demands that Republicans are making are things that Democrats will not accept," Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: US greenhouse gas emissions fell in Trump's first year | EPA delays decision on science rule | Trump scolds California over wildfires EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Public charge rule is a cruel attack on children MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol.


GOP leaders are fighting to cobble together a bipartisan coalition that can approve a debt-relief bill capable of winning President Obama's signature. But Becerra singled out several issues he said are still outstanding in the eyes of Democrats, including an effort to lower Puerto Rico's minimum wage and another to put bondholders ahead of the island's pensioners when it comes to restructuring the debt.

"I don't think it's folks making the minimum wage in Puerto Rico who caused this economic crisis," Becerra said. "I don' think it's the Puerto Rican workers who are being told that they have to allow their pensions to be raided who caused this economic crisis."

In December, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care Trump urges Dems to help craft new immigration laws: ‘Chuck & Nancy, call me!' Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE (R-Wis.) vowed to address Puerto Rico's $72 billion fiscal crisis by the end of March. But GOP leaders have struggled to rally conservatives behind the measure, and the deadlines continue to slip, including a $367 million default on May 1.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Patagonia makes its first election endorsements with two Western Democrats Daylight Saving Time costs more than it's worth MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. territories, is drafting the bill, but he's continuously delayed its release — a sign that he and Ryan have yet to convince a majority of their fellow Republicans that it's not a bailout leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, said Tuesday that Ryan and other Republican leaders are putting forth "a sincere effort" to find a solution. But he amplified previous Democratic warnings that party leaders won't accept the creation of an independent oversight board with the power to "supplant" the island's elected officials.

"The oversight board needs to be configured in a way that does not treat Puerto Rico as less than we would want to treat Maryland," Hoyer said. "We'd be pretty upset if they came in and said, 'Well … whatever the governor does or whatever the legislature does, sorry, we're going to do something else.'

"But clearly an oversight board is going to be a necessary component of any legislation that will pass the Congress," Hoyer added.

Becerra, meanwhile, is pushing GOP leaders to begin reaching out to Democrats if they can't rally their own troops behind the restructuring proposal.

"If they can't get their own votes from their own majority, then they should be working in a bipartisan manner to get there," Becerra said. "So we'll see what happens, but every second that ticks off the clock is another step closer to a real catastrophe."

Puerto Rico is facing its next big deadline on July 1, when it is scheduled to make roughly $2 billion in debt payments — payments experts say it can’t make.