Leaders appoint allies, adversaries to Puerto Rico growth task force

Key supporters and opponents of a recently signed bill to help Puerto Rico manage more than $70 billion in debt are now assigned to find out how the commonwealth got into its financial crisis.

Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria MORE (R-Fla.), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese Trump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (R-Utah), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senators ask Treasury to probe Brazilian meatpacker with major US footprint Top Foreign Relations Democrat calls on Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (D-N.J.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Fla.) along with Reps. Sean DuffySean DuffyFormer Rep. Sean Duffy and wife Rachel Campos-Duffy welcome 9th child Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Duffy explains why unborn child's health caused him to resign from Congress MORE (R-Wis.), Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico) have been appointed by congressional leaders to the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico.

The task force was created through a bill signed July 1 and is responsible for developing ways to bolster Puerto Rico’s crumbling economy. The eight-member task force operates separately from a seven-person oversight board with control over Puerto Rico’s finances.


The task force will consist of two appointees from each of the four congressional party leaders: House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFury over Trump Syria decision grows Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump thanks Reid for warning Democrats not to underestimate him Reid warns Democrats not to underestimate Trump Harry Reid predicts Trump, unlike Clinton, won't become more popular because of impeachment MORE (D-Nev.).

Pierluisi — Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate to Congress — bucked popular opinion in Puerto Rico and supported the bill as the only possible fix. 

Velázquez, born in Puerto Rico and the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, endorsed the bill shortly before it passed the House with majorities of both parties supporting it.

“I am confident that Congresswoman Velazquez and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi's strong voices will make the Task Force all the more effective as Congress considers next steps to restore robust economic growth to Puerto Rico,” said Pelosi, who appointed the duo, in a statement.

Duffy, the bill's co-sponsor, and MacArthur, who offered an amendment to exempt much of Puerto Rico's debt from the bill, were appointed by Ryan, according to a statement.

Rubio and Hatch were appointed by McConnell, according to a statement from Rubio.

Rubio was the first Senate Republican to endorse the bill after the House passed it and helped rally GOP support behind it. Hatch, the Senate Finance Committee chairman and the longest-tenured GOP senator, also supported the bill, which passed the Senate comfortably.

“Congress has a responsibility to create the conditions that will spur job creation, reduce poverty and drive investment in the island,” said Rubio. “This is one of the first steps in the process of turning Puerto Rico around, and I’m eager for the opportunity to share my pro-growth agenda for Puerto Rico as a part of this task force.”

Nelson, one of the bill's first Senate Democratic supporters, and Menendez, who vehemently opposed the bill, were appointed by Reid, according an aide.

Puerto Rico’s economy has crumbled under the weight of its debt. Without access to credit, the commonwealth can’t afford to keep essential medical and educational services running as thousands of Puerto Ricans flee to the mainland for greater economic prospects. 

The commonwealth has defaulted more than $2 billion in debt since May, and credit rating companies have downgraded Puerto Rican bonds to junk level.  

--Updated at 2:17 p.m.