Merkley Statement on Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after voting against S.2328, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA):

“Puerto Rico faces a crisis, and needs support from Congress to get on its feet.  But the 3.5 million Americans living there shouldn’t have to sacrifice their right to self-governance in order to get the help they need.  Puerto Rican citizens are American citizens. They pay taxes and they fight in our Armed Forces. These are our fellow Americans, and they deserve to have a say in their future, not to have Congress’s will imposed on them from afar.

“Unfortunately, this legislation turns Puerto Rico from a territory into a colony. It’s unacceptable and contrary to our ‘We the People’ vision of government for Puerto Rico’s future to be governed by an unelected board that has no voting members chosen by the people of Puerto Rico.  I’m also deeply troubled by provisions already in the bill designed to give workers less power and lower wages, and the possibility of a powerful control board giving huge profits to bond holders while shortchanging critical services for the Puerto Rican people.

“Congress has no claim on self-righteousness when it comes to the dire straits Puerto Rico is now in.  It was Congress that started Puerto Rico’s economy on a downward spiral in 2006 through the repeal of longstanding business tax incentives. And it’s Congress that has shortchanged Puerto Rico in a range of ways, from block-granting Medicaid, to excluding Puerto Rican residents from the Earned Income Tax Credit, to limiting the number of children that the child tax credit covers, and more.

“Puerto Rico faces an extremely difficult situation, with the prospect of the crisis deepening and potentially disrupting essential public services such as health, security and education. So I understand why colleagues, whom I greatly respect, voted for this legislation.  I fully agree we need to act, and to do so with great urgency.  But that does not mean we cannot do better by our fellow Americans than the bill we voted on today.”