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House panel near unveiling new Puerto Rico debt bill

A woman carries bags while walking in a commercial area with stores either closed or offered for sale in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to help Puerto Rico deal with its $72 billion debt crisis “is being finalized” by a U.S. Congress committee following negotiations with the Treasury Department, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said on Tuesday.

The House Natural Resources Committee has been struggling to write a bill restructuring Puerto Rico’s debt. There has been speculation that it could try to unveil a new bill, after a previous one sputtered, when Congress returns next week from a recess.

The statement from Ryan’s office came one day after the White House said Puerto Rico’s financial difficulties were worsening and that Congress needed to act quickly with a debt restructuring bill.

Parish Braden, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Committee, said the panel was still making refinements to the legislation, but he added: “The basic framework will not change” from an earlier version.

Braden said he was referring to the potential creation of a control board to help Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, manage its debt.

Over the past few weeks, Treasury Department officials have been negotiating the details of a bill that they hope can draw enough support from Democrats and Republicans to pass the House and Senate.

Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Dan Grebler