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Sanders Calls on Democrats to Oppose Puerto Rico Debt Bill

Bernie Sanders broke from the Democrats on Monday when he called for the party to oppose the bipartisan Puerto Rico debt bill.

The Hill reports:

The Vermont senator said Monday the bill “would make a terrible situation even worse,” citing a control board that the legislation would establish for the territory.

“We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the American citizens of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” Sanders wrote in a Monday letter to Senate Democrats.
Puerto Rico will be holding its Democratic presidential primary on June 5.

Sanders said he objects to the board’s power to override the territorial government. The most recent version of the bill arms a seven-person fiscal oversight board with substantial power. The board can override any territorial government act it deems to violate the bill, request audited financial statements, subpoena witnesses and impose criminal penalities.

“We must never give an unelected control board the power to make life and death decisions for the people of Puerto Rico without any meaninigful input from them at all,” Sanders wrote.

Sanders announced his opposition to the new Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act on Thursday.

An updated version of the debt bill was introduced last Wednesday. Along with Clinton and the White House, the legislation is supported by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Other notable progressives shared Sanders’s concerns about the control board, but still supported the bill.

“This is not the bill I would write. … This legislation is a compromise, so of course there are aspects that cause me concern,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee–the panel handling the bill–and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “But I am even more concerned about the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the island.”

Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and José Serrano (D-N.Y.), both Puerto Rican themselves, also supported the bill.

Photo credit: Raw Story.

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