This legislation would give U.S. territories like Puerto Rico the option to terminate their debt if they meet certain criteria, like being struck by a disaster, suffering major population loss, and staggering under overwhelming debt. The Territorial Relief Act would give Puerto Rico a shot at getting out from under its crushing debt load and building a future for itself.
My bill would also set up a fund so that certain holders of Puerto Rican bonds would be compensated when those bonds are terminated. Pensions would be left intact. Puerto Rican residents, individual investors, and credit unions are among the groups that could use the fund. Vulture funds and bond insurers would not get a penny from this fund.
And my bill would require an independent audit of Puerto Rico's debt. Everyone needs to know exactly how big the hole is, how much of the debt ended up being issued in the first place, whether it was legally issued, and what it's going to take to fix it.
President Trump's response -- to the hurricanes, and to Puerto Rico's deepening financial crisis -- has been unconscionable. He has been more worried about stopping disaster aid from reaching the island and denying the fatality count on the island than he has been in ensuring its long-term recovery. Earlier this week, he announced that he will re-nominate the same members of the Oversight Board who have imposed crippling cuts on the Puerto Rican people. And his enablers -- Senate Republicans -- have held up relief for disaster-stricken areas across the country because they won't allow more aid for Puerto Rico.
I have seen firsthand how the tens of billions of dollars of debt hanging over the heads of the Puerto Rican people are blocking their path to recovery. I know that the vulture fund executives see the island's desperation as just another opportunity to make a profit -- and it makes me sick.
The United States needs leadership that respects all its citizens, even those living in the territories. And in Puerto Rico's case, respect means placing the lives of millions of citizens ahead of Wall Street's profit margins.
Comprehensive debt relief is essential to Puerto Rico's recovery. It is the only way for the island to get out from under the thumb of Wall Street speculators. It is the only way to stabilize the island and allow its people to reclaim their future. Together, we can make it happen.