Hatch to Lead Congressional Task Force on Puerto Rico Growth

  • Committee will suggest federal changes to create growth
  • Panel differs from control board that will oversee debt

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, the chamber’s most senior Republican, will serve as chairman of an eight-member panel of Congressional members that will review federal laws and programs to improve Puerto Rico’s economy.

The Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico is part of legislation enacted on June 30 to deal with the commonwealth’s $70 billion debt crisis. House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed Hatch as chairman of the committee on Monday, according to the U.S. House website. Hatch, 82, serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and was elected to the Utah seat in 1976.

The panel will draft a report by the end of this year that details any current federal laws that hamper growth on the island and suggest changes to Washington programs to help turnaround an economy that’s failed to grow in the last decade.

House and Senate majority and minority leaders appointed the committee members, which include Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey; Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin; Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York; Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s congressional member; and Senators Marco Rubio of Florida; Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida.

The Task Force differs from a yet-to-be formed federal control board. President Barack Obama has until Sept. 15 to appoint that seven-member committee from names submitted by Congressional leadership. The control board will oversee any restructuring of Puerto Rico securities and monitor budgets.

Obama on June 30 signed into law the Puerto Rico legislation, called Promesa, which means promise in Spanish. Along with creating the federal control board, the law safeguards Puerto Rico from creditor lawsuits seeking repayment. The commonwealth defaulted on nearly $1 billion of principal and interest on July 1, the largest such payment failure ever in the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market.

(An earlier version corrected the day of the appointment.)

(Adds home state in the second paragraph.)
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