WASHINGTON, May 19 – Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement today after House Republicans unveiled legislation to address Puerto Rico’s financial crisis:
“The legislation that was announced today to establish an unelected control board in Puerto Rico is a move in exactly the wrong direction.
“This undemocratic board would have the power to slash pensions, cut education and health care, and increase taxes on working families in Puerto Rico. That is unacceptable.
“Even worse, Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan would be in charge of handpicking a majority of the control board’s members, while the people of Puerto Rico would be in charge of choosing none. That may make sense to the Tea Party and one of the largest trade groups representing Wall Street – groups that endorsed this legislation – but it makes absolutely no sense to me.
“This legislation would slash the minimum wage in Puerto Rico and exempt workers in Puerto Rico from President Obama’s overtime protections. In my view, we should be increasing wages in Puerto Rico, not slashing them.
“The economic situation in Puerto Rico will not improve by eliminating more public schools, slashing pensions, laying off workers and allowing corporations to pay workers starvation wages by suspending the minimum wage and relaxing labor laws.
“Instead, Puerto Rico must be given the time it needs to grow its economy, create jobs, reduce the poverty rate and expand its tax base so that it can pay back its debt in a way that is fair and that is just.
“We need austerity for billionaire Wall Street hedge fund managers who have exacerbated the financial crisis in Puerto Rico. We don’t need more austerity for children in Puerto Rico who are going hungry.
“I believe that Congress should act immediately to give Puerto Rico the same authority granted to every municipality in this country to restructure its debt under the supervision of a bankruptcy court. But the Republicans in Congress continue to oppose this.
“The people of Puerto Rico cannot wait any longer. That is why I renew my call today for the Federal Reserve to use its emergency authority to facilitate an orderly restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debt.
“We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the people of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
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