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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ouster of US House speaker will delay PR’s transition to SNAP

Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administrator Luis D. Dávila Pernas

By The Star Staff

Besides creating a leadership gap in the U.S. House of Representatives, the ouster of former speaker Kevin McCarthy will delay approval of significant legislation for Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administrator Luis D. Dávila Pernas said the ouster will delay the passage of a budget by Nov. 17, something he believes will now happen in December.

“In December, we have on the agenda the approval of the Farm Bill that includes the bill that would bring SNAP to Puerto Rico,” Dávila Pernas said via social media. “Now that may take place in January.”

Puerto Rico residents do not have access to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Instead, islanders receive a block grant called the Nutrition Assistance Program, which is known locally as PAN, by its Spanish acronym. PAN has a funding cap and not all Puerto Rico residents who would otherwise qualify for SNAP qualify for PAN.

Dávila Pernas also noted that the House speaker selects two members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board. Antonio Medina, a former oversight board member, resigned effective Oct. 1.

A resolution — titled a motion to vacate — from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), passed Tuesday with the support of eight Republicans and all the Democrats present and voting. The vote made McCarthy (R-Calif.) the first speaker in history to be removed from office after less than nine months on the job, according to mainland reports.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C), now the acting speaker, declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, who is a Republican, said McCarthy’s departure is not a reflection of the sentiments of the Republican majority as was reflected in Tuesday’s vote.

“Unfortunately, this vote is part of the personal and political agenda of a minority that is not prioritizing the needs of our nation,” she said in a written statement. “We are talking about a minority that campaigned against a CR [continuing resolution] and preferred a government shutdown. The minority accused Speaker McCarthy of working in a bipartisan manner, but when it was convenient for them they used the Democrats to remove the Speaker. This minority is not willing to make concessions or propose real solutions, and that is the real concern.”

González Colón added that removal of the speaker has been a distraction from the legislative agenda, impacting appropriations bills and other relevant issues that must be addressed in Congress, such as the 2024 federal budget and the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, as noted by Dávila Pernas.

“This week we had planned to vote on two appropriations bills that have been put on hold in light of this situation,” the resident commissioner said.

Puerto Rico Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago noted in a statement Wednesday afternoon that “[t]he federal House of Representatives was designed to be closest to the American people and to reflect the hopes, dreams and aspirations of its citizens.”

“In fact, its members are selected by vote every two years. Under the Republican majority, the House has been restructured to empower a few and impose rigid partisan rules,” he said. “In previous Congresses the motion to vacate the speakership could only be made by the majority leader or the minority leader, after giving notice to the members of his conference. Instead of preserving the eviction motion as an extraordinary vehicle that will rarely, if ever, be used, House Republicans voluntarily transformed it into an instrument that could be used by any member of their conference at any time. This has caused the paralysis of the institution at this time.”

“It is a process that, in my opinion, is dangerous given the polarization in which the nation finds itself on different issues, including the budget and the war in Ukraine,” the island Senate leader added.

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