Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is releasing the below statement following the vote on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA):
“Today’s vote on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was a choice between protecting health care for vulnerable children, funding for schools and other essential services or turning the futures of 3.5 million American citizens, who have fought our wars and paid their taxes, over to vulture hedge funds on Wall Street. Puerto Rico is facing a humanitarian crisis and a vote against this legislation is a vote against the people who reside there and the approximately 400,000 Puerto Ricans who live in Pennsylvania. The cost of inaction would be dire. Without this legislation, essential services, like funding for neonatal care units, public safety and basic sanitation, would become secondary to the payment of fees to Wall Street hedge funds. In order to put the people of Puerto Rico back on their feet, we must not sentence them to a life on bended knee to vulture hedge funds who have spent millions to oppose this bill.
Earlier this year, I cosponsored legislation to allow Puerto Rico to access the same Chapter 9 protections that all states and municipalities have access to. Now, due to months of inaction by Congressional Republicans, the Senate was forced to vote on an imperfect bill with a July 1st deadline looming. There is much I dislike about the bill, including the lack of labor protections and the structure of the control board. In addition, the process by which it was conceived and laid before the Senate was flawed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to push this vote to the very eve of the deadline and not allow any amendments was inappropriate. However, a no vote could adversely impact children in Puerto Rico and the economic security of retirees. Voting no would also put the American taxpayer at risk of having to bailout Puerto Rico in the future after vulture hedge funds pick through the Island’s fiscal carcass. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has reviewed this legislation and determined that its impact on the budget will be zero. PROMESA also contains provisions that will fight poverty in Puerto Rico and impose a stay in litigation. As the New York Times editorial board wrote today, this legislation truly is Puerto Rico’s “last chance.”
On a matter that was raised during debate, the pensions of retired coal miners, I’m disappointed that the Senate has not moved forward. The pensions in question are a promise that was made to these workers and their families over 60 years ago and it must be kept. Approximately 90,000 coal miners across our nation, including about 13,000 in Pennsylvania, are at risk of losing their hard-earned pensions through no fault of their own. For months, I’ve pushed Congress and the Administration for action to protect the pensions of retired coal miners. It’s far past time that Senate Majority Leader McConnell finally work in good faith to solve the challenges our nation’s coal miners face. I’ll continue to press for a result because those who descended into the depths and darkness of our nation’s coal mines and literally powered our nation deserve nothing less. We need to protect these workers so it’s time for the Senate to do its job and solve this problem. Congress has an abiding obligation to these workers and I won’t be satisfied until we do right by them.”