How Bishop Helped Ryan Achieve Much-Needed Victory on Puerto Rico

POLITICO offers a detailed look at how Rep. Rob Bishop and Speaker Paul Ryan worked together to secure a rescue package for Puerto Rico, overcoming early claims of a bailout and GOP resistance.

Report Rachael Bade and Colin Wilhelm:

Ryan was badly in need of a win. Donald Trump drowned out the speaker’s big policy rollout this month, his first gambit to establish the House GOP as a pillar of serious thought in a party left adrift by Trump’s ascendance. And conservatives earlier in the year blocked Ryan from passing a budget, a major embarrassment for a former budget chairman who once blasted Democrats for failing to do the same.

 

One year ago, Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, declared the island’s debts were unpayable. The territory is facing $73 billion of debt.

 

On Capitol Hill, in the final weeks of 2015, Pelosi personally phoned Ryan to implore him to do something soon, proposing he tuck a Puerto Rico rescue provision in a must-pass 2016 spending package.

 

But Ryan, staying true to what he’s said since taking the speaker’s gavel, insisted the legislation had to go through committee. Instead, he issued a December statement promising the House would act by the end of the first quarter of 2016.

 

That decision, however, almost imploded on him.

 

To begin with, one of the panels with jurisdiction over the bill, the House Judiciary Committee, was skittish to even address the issue. So Ryan and other GOP leaders convened a meeting early this year and decreed that Bishop’s natural resources panel, which had proposed a compromise with the Obama administration that looked promising, would handle the Puerto Rico matter going forward.

 

That decision proved vital. And it’s emblematic of Ryan’s philosophy as speaker: Defer to the committees, but only if their proposals can work.