Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

The Serrano Report - Volume XIII, Issue #9

Jun 10, 2016
The Serrano Report

In Washington, DC

Congressman Serrano Votes in Support of PROMESA

Yesterday, Congressman Serrano voted in favor of HR 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) and released the following statement:

After long and careful consideration, I have decided to support HR 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in its current form. While I do have serious reservations about some of the provisions in this bill, I am convinced that under the present circumstances this is the best and only viable option for Puerto Rico to be able to restructure all of its debts in an orderly manner and to allow the island to start tackling the fiscal crisis.

As a Puerto Rican who cares deeply about the impact that this bill will have on the Puerto Rican people, this has been a very difficult decision. Watching the island sink as Congress has ignored our pleas for help has been disheartening and difficult. We are now faced with urgent needs, as Puerto Rico is running out of time and cash. In less than a month, the government will face another $2 billion worth of payments coming due.

This is not the bill that I would have written. I am particularly concerned about the inclusion of unnecessary and harmful riders affecting working families, a potentially overburdensome set of powers for the oversight board, and the lack of pension protections. As a longtime friend of working families, and an advocate for fairness in Puerto Rico, these parts of the bill are not helpful in allowing Puerto Rico to begin its economic recovery.

That said, this legislation does include several important provisions that will help Puerto Rico get out from under its mountain of debt. It is estimated that the comprehensive debt restructuring process in H.R. 5278 will save Puerto Rico billions in annual debt payments- money that can be reinvested in Puerto Ricos economy and its people. The bill also provides some space for negotiation between the government and bondholders by allowing a temporary moratorium on lawsuits. In addition, the legislation requires that any fiscal plan include adequate funding for the deeply troubled pension system and prevents the government of Puerto Rico from balancing its budget by short-changing pensions, something the government has done for decades. The bill in its current form will provide real benefits for Puerto Rico.

Politically, we are at a point where Republicans and Democrats negotiators have agreed on this bill. In a Republican led Congress, this compromise legislation is the only one with a possibility of getting to the Presidents desk. There is no realistic alternative.

Simply put, it is either this bill, with its flaws, or nothing. Doing nothing will only lead to the crisis getting worse. Vulture funds will file lawsuits that could take further funding away from essential programs and services in Puerto Rico. The public pension system will go broke within three years, and will have no protections in court battles. The economic situation will only get worse for millions of Puerto Ricans.

I strongly support doing more for Puerto Rico than what is in this bill- and I will work with others inside and outside of Congress to try and find ways to ensure Puerto Rico receives better treatment under federal programs. But I cannot in good conscience sit here and advocate for doing nothing as the crisis deepens with each passing day. That is all that will happen if this bill does not move forward in Congress.

Should we face a different political situation in January, then it may be possible to provide additional assistance to Puerto Rico and to fix the problems of this bill. I pledge to do everything possible to make that a reality, as I have during all of my 26 years in Congress.

Lastly, I think that these months of debate on this bill finally end the discussion about the current status of Puerto Rico. For too long, many have believed the fiction that Puerto Rico can somehow have the best of both worlds under the commonwealth status- local autonomy with the full benefits of American citizenship. This fiction papered over what we have known all along- that for the past 118 years, Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States, treated unfairly and unequally. The result of that colonial relationship is on display today- both in Puerto Ricos inability to address the crisis under the current status, and in the fact that the debate on assisting Puerto Rico reaffirms the islands second class status in our nation.

Under either statehood or independence Puerto Rico would have had access to the tools necessary to address a fiscal crisis of this magnitude without resorting to begging Congress for assistance. The only reason we are in this situation today is because of the current status, which prevents Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans, from equal representation and equal treatment under federal laws, and prevents the island, as a territory of the United States, from accessing international monetary assistance. Given its critical role in creating this crisis, it is clear that the commonwealth status can no longer stand.

The debate around Puerto Ricos economic crisis should launch a larger, more vigorous discussion about Puerto Ricos future.It is time for those who want to solve the problem of the status of Puerto Rico once and for all to unite in favor of change.It is time for the status to change to something other than its current colonial form; it is time for Puerto Ricans to choose between statehood or independence and end the status that has led us to this moment. This bill preserves that ability, and federal funding has been allocated for that purpose. Now we have to move in that direction.”  

Congressman Serrano also spoke on the House floor in support to the bill and an amendment he successfully included in the bill with Congresswoman Velazquez to a commission investigating the legitimacy of Puerto Ricos debt to continue its efforts. Click HERE to watch his remarks on the floor in support of H.R. 5278 and HERE to watch his remarks on the Serrano-Velazquez amendment.

Congressman Serrano Leads Opposition to Financial Services Appropriations Bill

Yesterday, Congressman Serrano led the opposition to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, which was considered in the Appropriations Committee.  As the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, Serrano vigorously opposed the bill, and offered two amendments to improve it. 

“This bill is loaded down with partisan riders that hurt working families, consumers, and taxpayers,” said Congressman Serrano.  “Democrats will not support a bill that helps special interests at the expense of the American people.  This is an example of election year politics at its worst.”

Serrano offered amendments to strip several harmful riders from the bill.  He also strongly opposed Republican amendments to help special interests like payday lenders, corporations who violate workers’ rights, and big banks.  The bill passed out of committee on a largely party line vote.  The next step will be to consider it before the full House of Representatives.

In the Bronx

Congressman Serrano Attends Boogie on the Boulevard Event Hosted by the Bronx Museum

On Sunday, Congressman Jose E. Serrano joined the Boogie on the Boulevard festivities on Grand Concourse Boulevard between 165th and 167th St. The Boogie on the Boulevard block party style event brought together Bronx-based organizations and groups to celebrate the streets of New York. The event was sponsored by the New York City Department of Transportation, the New York Community Trust, and the Bronx Museum. The Congressman also took the time to do a small freestyle piece in front of the Bronx Museum tent.
Boogie on the Blvd

Congressman Serrano Meets with High School Student from the District

Congressman Serrano met with high school students from Claremont International High School in the Bronx. The students visited Congress through the Close Up Foundation High School Program, which gives students and educators the opportunity to see “democracy in action” and promote active civic engagement. The Congressman and students discussed their experience growing up in the Bronx and the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.  

Mtg students in the Bronx