Liberal senators: Put Puerto Ricans on oversight board

A group of Senate liberals is pushing the White House and congressional leadership to appoint Puerto Rican representatives to an oversight board charged with handling the island’s $72 billion debt crisis. 

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Sens. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona MORE (I-Vt), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus MORE (D-Ore.) said the seven-person oversight board established by a bill passed last week should only include people with primary residences in Puerto Rico.

“The board will hold unprecedented power over the fiscal management and general governance of the island,” wrote the senators in two letters sent Thursday: one to President Obama and another to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSoaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington MORE (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE (D-Nev.).

“The Puerto Rican people deserve this most basic respect,” the senators wrote.

The oversight board has broad power over Puerto Rico’s fiscal affairs. It’s charged with striking deals between the island and its creditors, and approving budgets; it can also override any act of the commonwealth’s government that it deems to violates its own actions or the bill that established the board.

Sanders, Menendez, Booker and Merkley all voted against the bill. Sanders and Menendez attempted to rally more opposition to the measure; it passed the Senate 68-30 last week and was signed by Obama the following the day.

Even Democrats who supported the bill took issue with the oversight board’s power and the process through which it’s appointed. The president is to appoint the board from lists of candidates submitted by congressional leaders, though it’s not mandated that any candidate be from Puerto Rico.

The letter’s authors said they’re “disappointed that the democratically elected representatives of Puerto Rico were not given any representation on the board, and we find it highly objectionable that neither they nor the people will be given an opportunity to weigh in on the establishment of the board.

“You should ensure that the board is composed of members who maintain a primary residence on the island and have a strong understanding of the structural causes of poverty in Puerto Rico and its socio-economic history,” they wrote.