IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hillary Clinton Pushes 'Fair Shot' For Debt-Saddled Puerto Rico

Clinton argued that Puerto Rico, which faces $72 billion in public debt, should be given the option to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Image: Puerto Rico Teeters On Edge Of Massive Default
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called on Congress and the Obama administration to give Puerto Rico "a fair shot at success" as it struggles with crushing debt.

In a statement, Clinton argued that Puerto Rico, which faces $72 billion in public debt, should be given the option to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which - as a commonwealth - it's currently barred from doing.

"The challenge is multi-faceted, and will ultimately require Puerto Rico to find a way to pay back its debtors in an orderly fashion," she said. "As a first step, Congress should provide Puerto Rico the same authority that states already have to enable severely distressed government entities, including municipalities and public corporations, to restructure their debts under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code."

Last month, Puerto Rico's governor said that the island's debt "is not payable."

"This is not politics, this is math," he told the New York Times.

Clinton's statement follows a similar call from Democratic rival Martin O'Malley, who said last month that Congress should approve a law to allow the Chapter 9 option for Puerto Rico and that the Obama administration should "end the inequitable treatment of Puerto Rico under Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act."

On Tuesday, O'Malley's campaign again highlighted his earlier position, saying "On Puerto Rico's economic challenges, Governor O'Malley has once again led and not followed. He outlined specific policy proposal based his principles as a fearless progressive - not based on polling."

Another Clinton rival, Bernie Sanders, agreed on Tuesday, backing Chapter 9 protections and adding, "Our goal must be not only to give Puerto Rico the flexibility it needs to restructure its debt, but to make sure that it can rebuild its economy, create good-paying jobs and expand its tax base."

Jeb Bush also said in April that he supports giving Puerto Rico "the same rights as the states" when it comes to addressing debt. But critics say that changing the law would amount to a bailout.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he opposes the Chapter 9 move, saying that his message to Puerto Rico is to "get your act together."

Clinton alluded to those critics in her statement Tuesday, saying "We're not talking about a bailout, we're talking about a fair shot at success."