Georgia runoff election’s effects seen on commonwealth and oversight board

By The Star Staff

The effects of the Georgia runoff election, which gave the Democrats control of the U.S. Senate, began to be felt Wednesday in Puerto Rico, at the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board and on the subject of Puerto Rico’s political status.

Officials said a Democratic Party majority in the Senate could bring about congressional action on the issue of the island’s status, previously blocked by the Republicans. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump reappointed David Skeel and retired judge Arthur González to the federal oversight board.

Oversight board spokesperson Edward Zayas confirmed the information about the reappointments, which was first released by the Wall Street Journal. The White House informed the board Wednesday about the appointments, which have yet to be officially announced.

The decision to make the reappointments came as Democrats snatched control of the Senate away from the GOP following Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia. At press time Wednesday, Democrat Raphael Warnock had been projected as the winner of one of the southern state’s two Senate runoffs, according to the Associated Press. Later in the day, Democrat Jon Ossoff was projected the winner over Republican incumbent David Perdue in the other runoff.

As Senate majority leader, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would have recommended a candidate to replace Skeel, whose appointment was supported by current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Skeel, who is the oversight board’s chairman, is the S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a position he has held since 2004.

González was previously a member of the oversight board but left it in October after Trump appointed Justin Peterson to the board. He is a senior fellow at New York University School of Law. He served on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York from 1995 to 2012, retiring as chief judge following his appointment to that position in 2010.

He was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to the oversight board in August 2016.

“With the reappointments of Skeel and González, expect the Board to continue business as usual and the filing of the Plan of Adjustment rejected by bondholders,” said John Mudd, a bankruptcy lawyer, through social media. “There is a possibility of agreement now that membership is clear.”

The results of the Georgia Senate election runoff are being viewed as crucial to the statehood movement. Schumer publicly vowed last October to pursue statehood for Puerto Rico and for Washington, D.C. McConnell and other Republican senators have blocked efforts to make Puerto Rico a state for fear it would bring more Democrats to Congress.

Puerto Rican voters on the mainland usually vote Democratic, so most Republicans perceive statehood as a political threat, although Pew Research has found that Puerto Ricans are a socially conservative crowd. Only a few Republican officials, such as Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, have said they would support Puerto Rican statehood.

“For PR statehood to have a chance, we had to run the table this election,” wrote U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.). “We had to win the plebiscite, the presidency, House & Senate. Dem Majorities elected. WE DID IT.”

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