Legislation to help Puerto Rico dig out of its $70 billion debt crisis is set for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday after a House panel fended off attempts to open the bill to a series of controversial amendments.
By a voice vote on Wednesday, the Rules Committee, the gatekeeper for all bills moving through the House, sent the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) to the full House for debate and a likely vote on Thursday.
The legislation, which is the result of months of negotiations between Congress and the Obama administration, would create a federal oversight board to work with investors to determine how much they would recover of the island territory’s $70 billion in loans.
Republicans have stressed that no taxpayer money would be used to bail out Puerto Rico from a crisis that has left nearly half of the population in poverty amid closings of schools and hospitals and a contracting economy.
During a Rules panel debate that stretched into the night, the committee rejected pleas to allow amendments that would have changed the basic structure of the legislation and the operation of the oversight board.
If the bill passes the House, action would then move to the Senate, where some leading Democrats have said they would seek significant changes to the legislation.
Earlier on Wednesday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, who ushered the bill through his committee on May 25, told reporters he expected the full House to pass it on Thursday.
Bishop, a Utah Republican, said a strong vote of support for passage in the House would help propel it through the Senate.
“The bottom line is the better the vote here (in the House), the less likely it’s going to come back in a significantly altered form” from the Senate, Bishop said.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Eric Beech and Andrew Hay)