Speaker Paul Ryan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The self-proclaimed limited government Republican received an “F” on Conservative Review’s Liberty Scorecard. Throughout his legislative career, the so-called free market champion has, as RedState editor Erick Erickson pointed out, voted for every bailout that has come before Congress.
It’s no wonder, then, that Speaker Ryan negotiated the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a Puerto Rico reform bill which includes a bailout provision for the fiscally irresponsible, cash-strapped island. Speaker Ryan got this liberal bill passed before the Republican-controlled Congress by lying to his Republican colleagues.
“Many big-money interest groups on Wall Street…have put a lot of money toward sabotaging this legislation in order to force a last-minute bailout upon Puerto Rico, putting U.S. taxpayers on the hook for their bad loans,” Ryan’s office said in an April statement. “They call this a bailout, because they know it is not. And a bailout is what they want.”
Originally, Speaker Ryan’s statement was accurate. When introduced by Rep. Sen Duffy in April, Section 206 of PROMESA required that a governmental entity must be insolvent in order to have its debt reduced. A month later, however, Speaker Ryan met with the Obama Administration and struck the word “insolvent” from the bill. Now, any entity, regardless of its ability to repay, can have its debt obligations reduced or wiped away on the whim of an unelected control board.
Clearly, Speaker Ryan’s radical amendment of PROMESA’s language redesigned this Puerto Rico reform bill into a bailout. Yet, at this point, the Speaker was still calling the bill a “restructuring agreement” and incessant lobbying his Congressional colleagues to pass it.
“It’s important that we go through regular order to pass PROMESA, our bipartisan legislation that protects American taxpayers,” said Ryan just weeks before the bill came up for vote. “I commend the members of the Natural Resources Committee—on both sides of the aisle—who worked to responsibly address Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and prevent a bailout.”
It’s still not a bailout? Yeah, right. After Speaker Ryan’s intervention, even far-left legislators like Nancy Pelosi were praising PROMESA. That tells us everything we need to know about the bill.
Yet, Speaker Ryan’s trustworthy face and clever rhetorical skills managed to successfully dupe the Republican-controlled Congress into passing the bill. PROMESA cleared the House with over 56 percent of congressional Republicans voting in the affirmative.
Is the bill’s passage all Speaker Ryan’s fault? No, Republicans shouldn’t have taken their party leader’s word at face value. Instead, they should’ve read every page of the Puerto Rico “reform” bill themselves. That’s why it is so important for Congress to pass Senator Rand Paul’s Read the Bills Act — to ensure that they are given ample time to read through legislation before a vote is called.
But in the meantime, the Senate will still have a chance to amend PROMESA before voting on the legislation. The body should stand firmly to principle and amend Section 206 to ensure that solvent corporations won’t be receiving a free pass from their debt obligations. And, while they’re at it, the Senate should learn from the House’s mistakes and read every page of the bill, because who knows what other conservative reforms Speaker Ryan negotiated away.