As results of the June 11 plebiscite vote have reached Washington this week, a number of congressional leaders have made statements or joined Gov. Rosselló in his visit to the nation’s capital.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the current highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, issued a statement earlier this week: “Those who stand to gain financially from a continuation of the status quo will seek to delegitimize the results of this federally authorized plebiscite. I wrote the law making this plebiscite possible so Congress could get a clear understanding of the wishes of the American citizens of Puerto Rico. They have now sent a clear and unambiguous message that they want to transition from a territory to a state. Congress needs to begin looking at ways to fulfill the wishes of these fellow Americans, as it has for all previous territories that voted for statehood.”
Governor Rosselló took a similar message to Washington D.C., saying, “The people of Puerto Rico have spoken. Now what we’re doing here is asking for action.”
Rosselló spoke at a press conference, where he was joined by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), both of whom are members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs – the subcommittee in the House of Representatives with responsibility for Puerto Rico.
Rep. Young, a longtime supporter of statehood, said,“We have to accept as a Congress that this is a territory that should not be. We are going to do everything we can to get it done. We only have so much time, and I’m tired of sitting around. … It’s time we let Puerto Ricans become Americans full scale.”
On the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, Congressman Young added: “I believe so strongly that we treat every American equally. This is a civil rights issue, and they have voted 97 percent in favor of statehood.” He concluded, “let’s make this the last colony. Let’s make this the 51st State.”
Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) officially presented the certified results of the plebiscite to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Organization of American States (OAS).
Puerto Rican born Rep. Nydia Velazquez issued a statement against the results.“When it comes to determining their future political relationship with the U.S., the Puerto Rican people need and deserve a process that is open, inclusive and transparent. This plebiscite failed to live up to that standard and the deck was stacked throughout the process. With members of two of the three major political parties in Puerto Rico boycotting the vote, we can safely assume the results do not even remotely reflect public sentiment on the Island.”
“For my part,” she added, “I will continue working to help Puerto Rico address the many challenges it faces such as focusing on what’s really important – rebuilding its economy and ensuring adequate resources for its healthcare system.”
Jason Emert, executive director of the bipartisan mission that observed the plebiscite, dismissed the idea that voter turnout should affect congressional action.
“We can’t deduce an outcome from people who did not vote,” he said, pointing out that U.S.voter turnout doesn’t affect the outcome of votes.