ON FLOOR OF SENATE, SCHUMER URGES CONGRESS TO PASS LEGISLATION THAT WILL PROVIDE PUERTO RICO ACCESS TO BANKRUPTCY PROTECTIONS; SCHUMER’S ‘PUERTO RICO CHAPTER 9 UNIFORMITY ACT’ WILL GIVE PUERTO RICO—A U.S. TERRITORY—SAME CHAPTER 9 AUTHORITY AS U.S. STATES
With Over 1M Puerto Ricans Living in New York, Schumer Has Been Strong, Outspoken Leader On Providing Puerto Rico & Its Residents With Equitable Treatment; Schumer is Sponsor of Two Pieces of Legislation That Help Puerto Rico By Providing it Access to Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Protections & By Treating PR Fairly in Federal Health Programs – Medicare & Medicaid
On Senate Floor, Schumer Calls On Congress to Pass ‘Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act’ Without Objection; Senator Says Passage of Legislation is Critical, As Puerto Rico Seeks to Resolve Its Outstanding Debt Obligations and Stabilize Its Economy
Schumer: Puerto Rico Deserves Fairness and Access to All Tools Necessary to Fix Economic Crisis – Including Access to Chapter 9 and Fair Health Care Reimbursements
On the floor of the Senate today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer spoke about the importance of passing the ‘Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act,’ which will provide Puerto Rico with the ability to restructure its debt. In his remarks, Schumer today called on Congress to pass this important piece of legislation without objection. Schumer said passage of this legislation is necessary because it will help address Puerto Rico’s dire economic crisis and prevent it from potentially becoming a drag on the entire economy in the United States. Schumer is also a sponsor of the ‘Improving the Treatment of the U.S. Territories under Federal Health Programs Act of 2015,’ which would create new federal rules governing Medicare and Medicaid in U.S. Territories. The legislation will treat U.S. territories, like Puerto Rico, more like states by eliminating the current territorial monetary limit on Medicaid. Schumer has long supported Puerto Rico and is fighting hard in Congress to help ensure that Puerto Rico and its residents are treated fairly.
The Senator’s prepared remarks for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise today deeply troubled by the dire economic, financial and health care situation in Puerto Rico.
The island is facing a financial crisis and dealing with a health care system on life support. The situation grows more dire each month. Puerto Rico has $73 Billion in debt already and large bond payments will continue to come due next month and in the months to come.
And sadly, as Puerto Rico’s economy and heath care system has floundered, residents have started to flee their homeland. If the economic situation worsens, this population shift from the Island to the mainland United States will continue until the only ones left are those that do not have the resources or ability to move.
At that point, we will have a humanitarian crisis on our hands, if there isn’t one already.
Mr./Madam President, there are 3.5 million Puerto Ricans living on the Island today and another 5.2 million living in the United States, including the over 1 million in my state of New York.
We have a basic, American responsibility to aid all American citizens in times of crisis, regardless of where they live.
And beyond that basic imperative – if we fail to offer Puerto Rico assistance now – this will not be a problem contained to the Island.
We need to be concerned with these issues not only because Puerto Ricans are part of the American family and deserve the quality of life that we all expect, but also because our failure to act now could result in a Puerto Rican financial crisis that becomes a drag on our entire economy.
I want to underscore that point, Mr. President: Congress must intervene before this crisis deepens and widens.
We have the tools to fix this problem. They are sitting in the tool box. The problem is, Puerto Rico isn’t allowed to use them.
Like Chapter 9 protections offered under the Bankruptcy Code… Every state in the United States can access Chapter 9 protections for municipal and public corporate debt. Puerto Rico, a territory, cannot.
Providing Puerto Rico with the ability to restructure its debt is necessary if we hope to have Puerto Rico dig out of its current economic crisis.
Senator Blumenthal and I have introduced a bill with many other colleagues that will join us today that would put Puerto Rico on equal footing when it comes to Chapter 9, and at the very least we should pass it right away.
I want to stress to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that giving Puerto Rico restructuring authority is not a bailout and won’t require any additional spending. It won’t cost the taxpayer one plugged nickel, but it will do a whole lot of good for our friends in Puerto Rico.
And on the health care front, I have introduced a bill with many of my same colleagues to address several aspects of the health care crisis, including issues like Medicaid funding and fairness, appropriate reimbursement rates and equitable physician payments. The disparities in how the Medicare and Medicaid programs treat Puerto Rico and our other territories are significant and they need to be addressed.
The bottom line is that Congress must act now to address these issues that are stifling Puerto Rico’s economy and way of life. We must give them the tools they need to solve these problems.
Mr./Madam President, the arguments I’ve heard against these bills are either punitive or short-sighted. “Shame on Puerto Rico for accumulating all this debt” or “it’s ok to leave this issue for another day.”
These arguments ignore the immediacy of the problem and its potential impact on our economy. They trivialize the plight of fellow citizens…citizens who are born American and serve in our armed forces, but cannot vote for their president or have their representative vote in Congress.
Mr./Madam President, I spent a long time with my friend and colleague Senator Menendez working to secure a Congressional Medal of Honor for the “Borinqueneers” – a segregated all-Latino military unit comprised of tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans.
This unit – the 65th Regiment – fought with bravery and distinction in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War at a time when their nation didn’t view them as fully equal.
Throughout history, when her nation put out the call, Puerto Rico answered. Now it’s time to answer Puerto Rico’s call for aid.
I urge my colleagues to drop their objections and help us pass these two measures, with haste.
Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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