Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants the Obama administration to respond by the end of the month to questions about how it will handle Puerto Rico's $70 billion debt crisis.
Hatch on Friday sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew with a long list of questions, including whether the Obama administration would consider delaying the federal minimum wage law in Puerto Rico.
Hatch pointed out in the letter that Obama has held off implementation of federal minimum wage increases in American Samoa and the Mariana Islands, and could do so in other territories "where the president acknowledges that a one-size-fits-all federal minimum wage can be costly to residents in areas where productivity and living costs are well below the national averages."
Puerto Rico, which is nearing default in its debt, wants Congress to allow its public corporations to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, a proposal backed by many congressional Democrats but not the GOP.
In his letter to Lew, Hatch said Puerto Rico must reform its fiscal policies to invite economic growth and to stem the exodus of people seeking to escape the island's high taxes and regulatory headaches. Hatch also noted the island's welfare system is a disincentive for people to join the workforce.
"Unfortunately for residents of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth has made unsustainable government benefit promises that have been papered over for far too long with debt-fueled expenditures which fail to align benefits with underlying economic fundamentals such as productivity, leading to the ultimate prospect of debt default," Hatch said. "Tragically, unsound financial decisions of government officials have led to a sharp rise in outmigration."
Read his letter here: