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Congress Passes PROMESA Act for Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Old San Juan the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The cupola of San Juan Cemetary as well as colorful homes sit next to the ocean April 26, 2004 in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The U.S. Senate passed the bill known by its acronym PROMESA, which translates to promise, on a bipartisan 68-30 vote, three weeks after the House overwhelmingly backed the measure. The vote came two days before Puerto Rico is due to make a $2 billion payment to creditors.

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The legislation establishes a seven-member control board to oversee negotiations with creditors and the courts over reducing some debt. It does not provide any federal taxpayer funds to reduce that debt.

The PROMESA bill would also require the territory to create a fiscal plan to bring the island back from its current financial situation. Among other requirements, the plan would have to provide "adequate" funds for public pensions, which the government has underfunded by more than $40 billion.

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In a press release following passage of the bill, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, "I am pleased that the Senate has passed PROMESA, the result of months of work by the House. This bipartisan legislation addresses the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico while protecting American taxpayers from a bailout of the territory."

While the bill passed in a bipartisan vote, 14 Democrats voted against the PROMESA bill. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is Latino, born in New York and of Cuban descent, has been among the biggest critics of the bill. "I'm afraid this bill provides little more than a Band-Aid on a bullet hole with regard to Puerto Rico's unsustainable debt," Menendez said on the Senate floor in May. "Mark my words—if we don't seize this opportunity to address this crisis in a meaningful way, we'll be right back here in a year from now picking up the pieces."

Other notable votes against the bill were Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, all of which have been mentioned to be on the short list of candidates for vice president with Hillary Clinton. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has not officially ended his campaign to represent the Democrats for president, also voted against the bill.

Despite reservations about this bill, PROMESA was supported by two Puerto Rican members of the Congress; Sens. Nydia Velasquez and Jose Serrano of New York. Rep. Luis Gutierrez from Illinois did not support the PROMESA bill.

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