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House Majority Leader Hoyer Pursues a Decision on Puerto Rico Status

The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), said that he hopes Congress will produce a decision on Puerto Rico’s political status in the new year.

“I think we should have a relationship with Puerto Rico that makes them equal citizens, with equal status,” he told El Nuevo Dia, reiterating that he wanted Puerto Rico to have its chosen status, whatever that might be.

Puerto Rico voters chose statehood for the third time in a status plebiscite in 2020.

Decision delays

“The conversations in search of a consensus project have postponed to 2022 a possible voting session on a project regarding the political status of Puerto Rico in the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives,” reported El Nuevo Dia.

The consensus in question would be an agreement between supporters of a statehood referendum vote as contained in Congressional legislation HR 1522 and those favoring HR 2070, a call for a constitutional convention with yet-to-be-determined limits on status options, echoing the historic platform of Puerto Rico’s PDP party. This bill seeks to restart and broaden the discussion of status alternatives from the status options as already identified by the federal government: independence, territorial status, and statehood.

US Justice Department Analyzes Puerto Rico Political Status Bills

Hoyer met with Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), and Jenniffer González (R-PR) in an effort to identify a consensus strategy. Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi joined them virtually.

Supporting statehood

Hoyer described himself to El Nuevo Dia as a defender of self-determination. He respects the self-determination process Puerto Rico has already completed in a series of status votes during this century, all of which have favored statehood, and is a co-sponsor of HR 1522, which recognizes the 2020 plebiscite vote.

Earlier this year, Hoyer testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, saying, “I believe that the best path forward to resolve questions of Puerto Rico’s political status is statehood, but that is a decision that must be left to Puerto Ricans themselves. I have long supported statehood for the people of Puerto Rico, but more importantly I believe in their right to self-determination. The people of Puerto Rico deserve the opportunity to chart their own future, and in my view, the people of Puerto Rico have told us time and time again, through multiple plebiscites in recent years, that they choose statehood.  As recently as this past November, the people of Puerto Rico chose statehood in a simple up or down vote.  I think that we in Congress would be wise to listen to what the people of Puerto Rico are telling us.”

He went on to say, “Statehood would afford the people living on the island all the rights, privileges, responsibilities, and equal treatment under federal programs that the current fifty states enjoy – everything from application of the federal minimum wage to access to Medicaid, supplemental nutrition assistance, and countless other federal programs.  Most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico would have a greater say in determining the course of our nation’s future, with equal representation in the Congress, including two senators, and a role in choosing our national leaders.”

While Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said he would call a committee vote on the status issue this year, it is now believed that the vote will come in January or February of 2022.

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