Congress passed an omnibus bill — one bill with a number of elements that all get voted on together — before the end of their work year, but it did not include any help for Puerto Rico’s debt problems.
The bill does fix some of the inequalities in Medicaid and medicare, but it doesn’t allow Puerto Rico to use chapter 9 bankruptcy, a change which many of Puerto Rico’s leaders have been working for.
Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, responded with a call to the people of Puerto Rico:
Because Puerto Rico is a territory, Congress has nearly complete power over us. We rely on the goodwill of men and women representing the 50 states. Often, such goodwill is not forthcoming. And sometimes, like today, our treatment can only be described as shameful. To the people of Puerto Rico, I issue this challenge. If you, like me, are appalled by the way in which Puerto Rico is treated by the government of the nation to which we Puerto Ricans have given so much, including our blood, then work with me to end the political status that enables such treatment.”
Rep. Jose Serrano spoke just as strongly:
This situation, both on the island and in Congress, highlight the need to change Puerto Rico’s political status. The current colonial arrangement is, I believe, at the heart of the fiscal crisis on the island. Colonialism is what leads Puerto Rico to be treated inequitably under many federal programs. Colonialism is what leads its plight to be ignored in Congress. And colonialism will ensure that this situation will continue to repeat itself over and over again. While we will continue to debate and discuss the challenges facing Puerto Rico in Congress, the result of the current discussions are clear- the status must change.
Serrano went on,
This fight has united the Puerto Rican Diaspora like never before. These efforts will be long remembered by millions of Puerto Ricans in Florida, New York, and elsewhere.
Are you ready to take up the challenge? 32 territories have become States of the Union, and some of them had to fight hard to get statehood. Puerto Rico can do the same.