Photographer: Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg

Senate Plans Puerto Rico Debate With Passage by July 1 Uncertain

  • Republicans say quick approval requires Democrats to cooperate
  • Democratic leaders demanding votes on several amendments

Senate leaders plan to debate Puerto Rico debt legislation next week, but it’s unclear whether the measure will be sent to President Barack Obama before the island’s next debt payment deadline on July 1.

It will “require some cooperation” from Democrats to move the bill before Puerto Rico is expected to default on some of the $2 billion in principal and interest on debt payments, said John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. The measure was passed by the House on June 9.

Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said they want the chance to vote on amendments that would remove or alter provisions they find problematic, including some related to the financial control board the bill would establish.

Reid told reporters Tuesday that the House-passed measure is flawed, and that a lunchtime meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, who is pushing hard for the bill, didn’t change his mind.

“At the minimum, we need some amendments,” Reid said.

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, who has called the bill “neo-colonial,” said that if Democrats “are jammed” by a tight debate schedule, he would “do everything I can procedurally to make sure we have amendments” considered to the House-passed bill.

Tight Schedule

Any debate next week will likely require the unanimous consent of senators on amendments if the Senate wants to meet the July 1 deadline, Cornyn said.

“We are going to have a chance to have that debate and those votes next week,” Cornyn said on Senate floor.

The Senate is in session next week ahead of a one-week recess. The House is not in session next week, which means that if the Senate makes any changes to the bill, S. 2328, the House wouldn’t be able to take up the revised measure until July.

Lew, who met with Senate Democrats Tuesday, said Congress must act quickly “so that the 3.5 million Americans who live in Puerto Rico don’t get plunged into chaos.”