On the same day of his campaign trip to Puerto Rico, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made it known that he is against allowing the island's local governments to file for bankruptcy, as U.S. municipalities are allowed to do.
The position puts Rubio at odds with Republican rival Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both of whom have said Puerto Rico should have the legal bankruptcy rights it has sought from Congress.
Clinton also plans to be in San Juan on Friday, and the Rubio camp has been eager to draw a contrast, noting that her visit will include an invitation-only event, rather than one open to the public.
Puerto Rico faces a deep debt crisis. And while the territory itself wouldn't be able to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection -- neither can U.S. states -- giving its municipalities permission to do so might relieve some of their government debt burden.
Though they're U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans on the island do not vote for president. They do send delegates to the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. And Florida, the country's largest swing state, has a robust, growing Puerto Rican population along the key I-4 corridor.
Rubio penned an op-ed, published Friday in English and Spanish, calling for Puerto Rico to take tough budget measures to deal with its financial hole.
Puerto Rico is clearly blessed with natural beauty, a vibrant culture, and hard-working and patriotic Americans. Unfortunately, the same liberal ideology that has wreaked havoc on the broader U.S. has had far more disastrous consequences for Puerto Rico. Like their counterparts in Washington, Puerto Rico's liberal-leaning politicians –- who today are hosting Hillary Clinton in San Juan -- have taxed and spent too much, and lacked the political courage and competence to pull Puerto Rico out of economic despair.
Allowing Puerto Rican municipalities to reorganize their debts under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code would not solve Puerto Rico’s problems and should only be a measure of last resort considered if Puerto Rico takes significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess.
Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved, and its unequal treatment by the federal government must end. As president, I will continue to speak clearly about the importance of enabling Puerto Ricans to resolve their status. [...] Puerto Rico should have a federally-sponsored vote on the island with two choices: become a state or not. If a majority of Puerto Ricans votes yes, Congress and the next president should respect their will and do what's necessary to admit them as the 51st state.