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. 

{mosads}Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (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 Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (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. 


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