UPDATE 1-U.S. Senate set to begin debate on Puerto Rico debt relief bill
By Richard Cowan and Daniel Bases
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - After months of waiting for the U.S. Congress to act as Puerto Rico's economic crisis progressively worsened, the Caribbean island is on the verge of securing a relief plan from Washington aimed at helping it address a hobbling $70 billion debt.
The Senate is set to launch a debate on Wednesday for legislation establishing a federal oversight board that would be in charge of restructuring the U.S. territory's debt where one out of every three dollars it earns in revenue is used to pay creditors, according to the U.S. Treasury.
"We're not going to let Puerto Rico go off the cliff here. It's too important," said Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
The measure is identical to the plan passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, as Congress tries to send it to President Barack Obama to sign into law by July 1. That is when Puerto Rico faces a potential default on a chunk of its debt if it cannot make a $1.9 billion payment.
As early as Wednesday, the Senate could cast a procedural vote on the bill that, if successful, would clear the measure for passage this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also took steps to limit amendments that can be offered to the bill.
Some Democrats have complained about the makeup and operation of the oversight board that would be appointed by Washington as well as provisions demanded by House Republicans that potentially could lower minimum wages for some younger workers.
"Something needs to be done. We would really love some amendments on key issues like the composition of the board, the procedures for taking Puerto Rico into the bankruptcy court, and then especially, the labor provisions on overtime and minimum wage," Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters. Continuación...