Senate Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief

Senate Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief

Senate Democrats are pushing to amend a House-passed debt relief bill for Puerto Rico, and one says he won’t rule out blocking the bill if they don’t get the chance.

"I will consider all of my options if I don't get a chance to amend it,” Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezEnding the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison MORE (D-N.J.), a long-time critic of the House bill, said Thursday.

Menendez could put a “hold” on the bill, blocking it from consideration unless at least 60 senators vote to advance it. 

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Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to schedule a vote right before the Senate breaks for its July 4 recess. That would force Democrats to back the bill without a chance to amend it.

A senior Senate Republican leadership aide said this month that any amendments would need unanimous approval, and a senior Democratic leadership aide said most Democrats would support the bill without a chance to amend it.

No Senate Democrat publicly supports the bill despite it passing the House with wide bipartisan support. The legislation is backed by the White House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and the Obama administration is putting heavy pressure on Democrats to fall in line.

That pressure hasn’t moved Democrats concerned about the power the bill gives the oversight board it establishes, and provisions affecting Puerto Rico’s minimum wage and exemption from a Labor Department overtime rule.

"I don't like much the way it is, but I also know the House wants to punish Puerto Rico. That's how they play this, because they want to use this to weaken labor laws,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (D-Ohio). "Every opportunity that Republicans in Congress get to weaken labor laws, they exercise it."

Obama administration officials are flexing their muscle to quash Democratic concerns. Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, and his special counsel, Antonio Weiss, spoke out in support of the bill in a Thursday panel.

The goal is to enact the bill before Puerto Rico faces a $2 billion debt payment due July 1. Some Senate Democrats say they’re eager to pass the bill before then, but can’t support it as is.

“There's no reason to put a hold on the bill if you're given opportunities for amendments,” Menendez said. "I take the majority leader's word at the beginning of this Congress that we need more amendments and a more open process. The people of Puerto Rico deserve no less."