Marco Rubio opposes giving Puerto Rico the same type of bankruptcy protection available to U.S. towns and cities mired in fiscal crisis, the Florida senator will say Friday as he visits the American territory for the first time as a 2016 contender.
In an op-ed to be published in both Spanish and English, Rubio blames the “liberal ideology” of Puerto Rico’s politicians, creating a “toxic brew of economic stagnation, higher taxes and bloated government.”
“Allowing Puerto Rican municipalities to reorganize their debts under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code would not solve Puerto Rico’s problems and should only be a measure of last resort considered if Puerto Rico takes significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess,” he writes.
The op-ed was timed to coincide with Rubio’s first visit to the island as a presidential candidate. And his position sets him apart from other 2016 contenders, including Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, who have supported Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection for the deeply indebted island.
Many candidates — Republican and Democrat — are courting Puerto Rico’s voters with an eye on securing support in Florida’s growing Puerto Rican population, and Rubio’s opposition to bankruptcy for the territory might not sit well with that important group.
But he appears to be aiming to build his bona fides as a fiscal conservative.
“So far, Hillary Clinton’s liberal hosts in San Juan today have failed to propose any serious measures to fix Puerto Rico’s economic challenges,” Rubio writes in the op-ed appearing in Puerto Rico’s largest daily newspaper, El Nuevo Dia.
Clinton is also visiting Puerto Rico on Friday, where she’ll hold an economic roundtable.
Until now, Rubio had declined to take a stand how to grapple with the territory’s fiscal crisis. Puerto Rico is carrying $73 billion in debt and, unlike U.S. municipalities, can’t declare bankruptcy. Rubio had previously declined to support a bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal that would grant Puerto Rico’s municipalities and public utilities the same option to declare bankruptcy.
But Rubio said that as president he would try to assist Puerto Rico by making Earned Income Tax Credits apply in the territory and doubling the Child Tax Credit. He also reiterated his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare with a system that would treat Puerto Ricans “the same as other American consumers on the mainland.”
Rubio also signaled support for Puerto Rican statehood too — if a majority of Puerto Ricans vote to do so.
“Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved, and its unequal treatment by the federal government must end. As president, I will continue to speak clearly about the importance of enabling Puerto Ricans to resolve their status,” he writes.
“Puerto Rico should have a federally-sponsored vote on the island with two choices: become a state or not. If a majority of Puerto Ricans votes yes, Congress and the next president should respect their will and do what’s necessary to admit them as the 51st state,” Rubio says.