House Republicans are officially ruling out passing legislation to help Puerto Rico before the island defaults on a May 1 payment.
“I don’t see how we reach that,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday in a meeting with reporters.
Lawmakers are struggling to craft a bill with enough support to help the debt-laden U.S. territory. And time is running short, with a $422 million payment due May 1.
But McCarthy would not even go so far as to predict that Congress could address the problem before a much larger payment comes due on July 1. On that date, the island is slated to pay creditors roughly $2 billion.
But GOP leaders insist their overarching goal is a well-crafted bill, and they say they won't rush to meet specific deadlines.
“I’m hopeful that we’d have it out of the House before then,” said McCarthy of the July 1 date. “At the end of the day, it will be a bipartisan bill.”
Work on a Puerto Rico bill stalled in the House earlier this month when the Natural Resources Committee hastily canceled a markup of the measure due to a lack of support. Since then, Republicans have worked to assuage concerns within their party that the package could be considered a “bailout." No federal tax dollars would go to the island under the measure.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration and Democrats have not yet signed off on the measure either, and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis On The Money: Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary | Biden says he's open to tighter income limits for stimulus checks | Administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill Sorry Mr. Jackson, Tubman on the is real MORE has said proposals allowing Puerto Rico to restructure its debt are not yet workable.
McCarthy said Tuesday that the bill was pulled by the committee because the Treasury had not yet signed off on the measure, which meant Democrats would not vote for it.
“The Democrats on committee said they wouldn't vote on anything until Treasury is done,” he said.
The bill is currently being reworked, but broadly it would establish an outside fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico and give the territory the ability to seek court-ordered restructuring of its debt.