Congressional Support Grows to Advance Democracy in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Status Act (HR 8393), a bill pending before Congress, seeks to allow voters in Puerto Rico to create a more democratic relationship with the U.S. by choosing a new political status from among proven, well-established, non-territorial options that would essentially either elevate Puerto Rico from being a U.S. territory to become a state of the United States or grant it separate sovereignty.

Upon the bill’s introduction, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who led the drafting process, explained that the heart of the proposal is to “give to the people of Puerto Rico the option making a democratic choice on their own status.”

As noted below, a growing number of members of Congress appear to agree with Majority Leader Hoyer that it is time to provide the people of Puerto Rico with greater democratic freedom.  There has been a steady increase in Congressional support for the proposal from its introduction on July 15th.

Cosponsors

Members of Congress can cosponsor a bill to signal their support for it. As of this writing, HR 8393 has 34 cosponsors:

  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
  • Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR)
  • Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)
  • Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Del. Michael San Nicolas (D-GU)
  • Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA)
  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, (D-AZ)
  • Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL)
  • Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM)
  • Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA)
  • Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP)
  • Rep. Paul  Tonko (D-NY)
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
  • Rep. John Katko (R-NY)
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE)
  • Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
  • Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA)
  • Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)
  • Rep. Nikema  Williams (D-GA)
  • Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)
  • Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)
  • Rep. Melanie Ann Stansbury (D-NM)
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  • Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)
  • Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL)
  • Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX)
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
  • Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX)
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
  • Rep. David Trone (D-MD)
  • Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

This list includes 28 Democrats and 6 Republicans representing 22 states and territories. California and Florida have 4 cosponsors each, while New York has three.

Progress on the bill

The bill was officially introduced in the House on July 15, 2022, and referred back to the House Natural Resources Committee on the same day. The committee held a markup on the bill on the 20th of July,  finalizing its consideration of the long-awaited proposal and sending it along for full consideration by the House of Representatives.

The next step in the legislative process is for the bill to be brought to the floor of the House for debate and votes. Then the Senate would have to pass a version of the bill and the two bills would need to be harmonized before going to the President for his signature. Once President Biden signs the bill, Puerto Rico would gain a permanent non-territorial political status after more than a century as a U.S. territory.

Critics have attacked the bill for omitting options for Puerto Rican voters reminiscent of the disproven “Commonwealth” status that had been presented to Puerto Rican voters over the years as a viable option, but amendments offered during Committee consideration to expand the bill failed.

Majority Leader Hoyer had cautioned that continued deliberation on amendments to the bill would result in “what’s happened now for decades or a century…we will end up nowhere. We will end up being a colonialist power.”

 

Commonwealth Status: A History of Rejection by the U.S.

Updated on August 23, 2022

 

 

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