Congress to Consider Two Bills — but Which Status Options?

A Congressional hearing scheduled for April 14th will consider the two bills on Puerto Rico’s political status that are currently pending before the U.S. House of Representatives: HR 1522 and HR 2070. Both have companion bills in the Senate.

HR 1522

At its core, HR 1522 recognizes previous referendums in Puerto Rico and provides a ratification vote on statehood. Puerto Rico’s voters chose statehood as their preferred status in the 2020 referendum, as well as in plebiscites held in 2012 and 2017. HR 1522 offers members of Congress an opportunity to recognize and respond to Puerto Rico’s voices and request for statehood.

Under HR 1522, Congress would offer statehood to Puerto Rico contingent on a ratifying vote in the territory like those held in Alaska and Hawaii, the States most recently admitted to the Union.  HR 1522 recognizes the Congressional obligation to proceed with statehood should that option win in the ratification vote.

Under HR 1522, any voter who does not want statehood still has a chance to vote against it. If a majority of voters say no to statehood for any reason, Puerto Rico would continue in its current territorial status. It would still be possible for the territory to work toward independence or statehood, since being a territory is not a permanent political status.

However, if the voters recognize the congressional interest and willingness to partner with Puerto Rico in its quest for a democratic status as afforded in HR 1522, and if they again vote for statehood, the message to Congress would be clearer than ever.

HR 2070

HR 2070 is not so simple.

It does not describe any status options. Instead, it calls for a status convention where elected delegates and an appointed Congressional Commission will develop status proposals to be included in another referendum. Congress will then have an opportunity to ratify the winning option.

The delegates to the status convention will “debate and draft definitions on self determination options for Puerto Rico, which shall be outside the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly made clear statements on the options which are outside of the Territorial Clause: statehood and independence.

However, HR 2070 does not limit the options to those which are compatible with the U.S. Constitution. Nor is there any limit on the number of options to be considered.

Delegates are then responsible for drafting “at least one transition plan” for each of the options this brainstorming has come up with. They will then “select and present to the people of Puerto Rico the self-determination options that will be included in the referendum.”

Transition to statehood would impact numerous federal laws across the full range of congressional committees. These committees of jurisdiction have no voice in HR 2070.

The legislative proposal further provides for multiple transition plans for each option delegates choose, and each one will be offered as a separate choice on the ballot. Some transition plans might be constitutional, politically viable, and practical, and some might not.

There are no parameters in the bill as to which status options can be offered to Puerto Rican voters.  The options could include unprecedented and unconstitutional options such as Independence and Free Association with permanent U.S. citizenship.

Voters could further be provided with the option to dictate Congress to give up its power by signing a compact agreement that Congress would not be able to change – a constitutionally impossible structure that has been presented to the people of Puerto Rico as viable but is not.

Convention results could even result in Puerto Rican voters being able to choose an option that would give Puerto Rico a seat at the United Nations and related sovereignty on matters including immigration and trade while maintaining an open border with the United States, permanent U.S. citizenship, full access to Medicaid and other federal programs, ability to cherry pick which U.S. laws apply to Puerto Rico, and extensive U.S. funding. A tempting – but impossible – option for any voter.

4 Comments

Bettencourt

Another do nothing bills- keep us in limbo with lip service. Why buy the cow when politicians are getting the milk for FREE . Incorporate and close the backdoor to independence and make Puerto Rico a safe place to invest with free interstate commerce and send fomento packing

Torres

Dear, Leaders and all members of congress ; their is nothing new to debate on the matter of Puerto Rico all these debates already took place in the past and in the mean time no one wants to see the reality that the Porto Rican people on the Island, American Citizens are being ignored again for the third time and even though President Biden is Helping the citizens and the Island the fact of the matter is that Porto Rican American Citizens Are Still Being Ignored That isn’t the way democracy works., I don’t understand what seems to be the problem here and why Not even the supreme court is standing up to this injustice., If Puerto Rico has a congress equivalent to the us congress why is Puerto Rico congress being ignored that to me means they don’t have any powers something isn’t right here., If this continues I suggest that the Government of Porto Rico make there case in the supreme court along with the entire congress of Porto Rico all of the organizations that believe that Puerto Rico is not being treated by the 21st century law along with all us congress representatives who believe that it’s about time Porto Rico becomes a state as they requested and voted as well as all the scholars and professors that are in favor of statehood. Puerto Rico needs to be heard in a packing of the capital building and supreme court on live television so the world could see. that Respect for Democracy For The American People Will Prevail.

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