Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla (“Commonwealth” party) Sunday dismissed and mocked the Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate committee responsible for the political status of territories.
Garcia was reacting to their letter Friday advising Puerto Ricans against considering his party’s ‘developed Commonwealth’ plan or similar proposals.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) cautioned that such proposals “confuse the debate” over the territory’s ultimate status “and undermine efforts to resolve this issue of great importance.”
Garcia contended that the senators’ position was “undemocratic” because it would not give Puerto Ricans the choice of a proposal that the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations, other congressional leaders, and the Congressional Research Service have said is impossible for constitutional and other reasons.
The Governor said that the letter from the U.S. Senate committee of jurisdiction may “look good on the wall of a statehooder” and that such “letters have meant nothing for the last 100 years.” He also mocked it as “Letter Number 100,000.”
Asserting that the Senate leaders were “clos[ing] the door to Puerto Rican self-determination,” he claimed that “more senators are willing to allow Puerto Ricans to choose the development they prefer.”
He named Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), MarkUdall (D-CO), and Wicker (R-MS). But none of the three — or any other member of Congress — have embraced the “developed Commonwealth” proposal.
Under the plan, the Commonwealth government would be permanently empowered to nullify Federal laws and court jurisdiction in Puerto Rico and to enter into international organizations and trade and other agreements as if Puerto Rico were a sovereign nation. The U.S. would also be obligated to grant the government a new subsidy and Federal land in Puerto Rico as well as to continue all current assistance to Puerto Ricans, U.S. citizenship for them, and totally free trade access to the U.S.
The letter was prompted by Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” party-controlled government preparing to call a government assembly to make the ‘developed Commonwealth’ plan the territory’s future status proposal.
Further discouraging such an assembly, the senators noted that the U.S. Congress is still considering President Obama’s proposal for responding to the status plebiscite conducted by Puerto Rico along with its elections in November 2012. Obama’s proposal is for a Federally supported vote on one or more of the plebiscite’s options.
As Wyden and Murkowski pointed out, the plebiscite rejected Puerto Rico’s current territory status, also misleading known as “Commonwealth,” and overwhelmingly chose statehood among the possible alternatives. The other options are independence and nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end.
The Obama vote would be on an option or options proposed by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission, which includes a representative of each of Puerto Rico’s status-based political parties. The proposed option or options would have to be found by the U.S. Department of Justice not to conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S.
The White House embraced the 2012 plebiscite and its results but proposed another vote because Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and the other ‘commonwealthers’ who control Puerto Rico’s government elected at the time of the plebiscite dispute the plebiscite and results. Their opposition threatened to cause Congress to not act on Puerto Ricans’ self-determination petition for equality within the U.S.
Like the plebiscite, the vote proposed by the Obama Administration would not include the “Commonwealth” party’s proposal because it has no possibility of being implemented.
Wyden and Murkowski, who termed the ‘developed Commonwealth’ proposal “non-viable,” urged Garcia to work with the presidents of Puerto Rico’s other parties to “give the people of Puerto Rico a meaningful choice in determining the future of the Islands” — a choice that does not include the impossible ‘developed Commonwealth’ proposal.
Their letter is consistent with previous correspondence from Murkowski and Wyden’s predecessor as chairman of the Senate committee stating that “New Commonwealth” is “inconsistent with the Constitution and basic laws of the United States in several respects.”
“Commonwealth” party leaders — who have lobbied Federal officials to not act in response to the plebiscite — have said that they will call their status assembly if the Federal government does not act in response to the plebiscite this year.
Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly has established a joint Senate-House of Representatives committee to draft legislation for the status assembly.
The Republican-controlled Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives, however, has approved Democrat Obama’s proposal. Final congressional consideration is expected to come early next year.