WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) voted Thursday (June 9) for H.R. 5278, a bill to establish an oversight board to assist the government of Puerto Rico, including instrumentalities, in managing its public finances, and for other purposes.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, Westerman spoke in favor of the bill. The following are his remarks (as delivered) on the House floor:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5278. I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin, Congressman Duffy, and Chairman Bishop for their work in crafting this bipartisan legislation.
“H.R. 5278 is a compromise bill designed to save Puerto Rico from economic calamity and prevent a taxpayer bailout. Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the admission from both sides of the aisle that this bill isn’t perfect is a testament that this bill is the best solution. Puerto Rico is in a crisis. The territory has already missed payments on its debt and more and larger missed payments are on the near horizon. The fiscal and economic conditions of Puerto Rico are unsustainable.
“Based on the constitutionally-delegated power of Congress – and I quote – ‘to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations, respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States,’ we have a responsibility to take action on this matter. This unsustainable debt burden – brought on by poor decisions, unfulfilled promises, and bad investments – has crippled their economy. Their unemployment rate is 12.2 percent and since Puerto Ricans are American citizens, thousands of young people come to the main land each year to find work. Puerto Rico is spiraling out of control and it’s our constitutional responsibility to put our territory on a different path and change the economic trajectory.
“H.R. 5278 establishes a seven-member oversight board that will have the authority to establish budgets for the territory, require the scoring of legislation so that the people of Puerto Rico know the true costs of government programs, and the power to veto contracts and executive orders.
“Once again, I would like to thank Congressman Duffy and Chairman Bishop for their hard work in crafting a bill to get Puerto Rico on the right track without a taxpayer bailout. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 5278 to stop Puerto Rico’s economic death spiral and to lay a foundation for a brighter future in Puerto Rico without spending taxpayer dollars. I yield back.”