U.S. lawmakers target May 1 for Puerto Rico debt crisis bill

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2016 11:32 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic and Republican lawmakers are working in "good faith" to finalize legislation addressing Puerto Rico's debt crisis by May 1, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, said on Thursday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, told reporters, "I think we are going to get there."

Pelosi, speaking at her weekly news conference, said Democrats still have some concerns about the bill and are working with Republicans to address them, although it is not clear if they will be able to come to an agreement before the target deadline.

Pelosi said Democrats' main concern with the Republicans' first draft of the legislation was the part of the bill on restructuring.

"We were hoping for May 1, but I don't know if that's still possible," she told reporters. "In good faith, we have been working in a bipartisan way."

Pelosi said lawmakers are trying to separate out the essential parts of the bill needed to help resolve the U.S. commonwealth's financial crisis from extraneous parts of the measure.

Republicans who control Congress outlined a plan this week to help Puerto Rico write off billions of dollars in debt if an agreement with creditors is out of reach.

That plan would create a forum for investors to negotiate with Puerto Rico officials while the island's government tries to curb deficit spending that has created $70 billion in debt.

Negotiators were moving forward on the makeup of an oversight board proposed in the legislation, Pelosi said, but a "new wrinkle" has emerged over the role of creditors in the U.S. commonwealth's debt restructuring decisions.

Separately, Ryan told reporters at his weekly press briefing that an oversight board would be the best possible way to prevent taxpayers from bailing out the U.S. commonwealth.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Grant McCool)