House Natural Resources Committee Asks Questions About President’s Puerto Rico Task Force

Task Force on Puerto Rico

Eight Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources, the committee that oversees U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, wrote a concerned letter to Douglas L. Hoelscher, who is Deputy Assistant to the President and Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.

The letter began by asking who is currently on the Task Force and what they have been doing. The last public report from the Task Force was published in 2011.

The authors reminded Hoelscher of Executive order 13183, which established the Task Force. They quoted its provisions:

It is the policy of the executive branch of the Government of the United States of America to help answer the questions that the people of Puerto Rico have asked for years regarding the options for the islands’ future status and the process for realizing an option. Further, it is our policy to consider and develop positions on proposals, without preference among the options, for the Commonwealth’s future status; to discuss such proposals with representatives of the people of Puerto Rico and the Congress; to work with leaders of the Commonwealth and the Congress to clarify the options to enable Puerto Ricans to determine their preference among options for the islands’ future status that are not incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws and policies
of the United States; and to implement such an option if chosen by a majority, including helping Puerto Ricans obtain a governing arrangement under which they would vote for national government officials, if they choose such a status.
It is also the policy of the executive branch to improve the treatment of Puerto Rico in Federal programs and to promote job creation, education, health care, clean energy, and economic development on the islands.”

The letter further quotes the Executive order’s requirements that the Puerto Rico Task Force work with Congress and the President:

The orders also direct the Task Force to implement this policy and “ensure official attention to and facilitate action on matters related to proposals for Puerto Rico’s status and provide advice and recommendations on such matters to the President and the Congress.” Further, the Task Force is required to “identify and promote existing Federal initiatives that benefit Puerto Rico; provide advice and recommendations to the President and the Congress on the treatment of Puerto Rico in Federal programs; and provide advice and recommendations to the President and the Congress on policies and initiatives that promote job creation, education, health care, clean energy, and economic development on the islands.”

“We are not aware of the identity of the other Members of the Task Force at the present time or its work during this Administration, including its required recommendations to Congress during the past three and two-thirds years,” the letter continues.

The Committee on Natural Resources is reportedly planning a hearing on Puerto Rico’s status later this month September. They concluded the letter with a request for the names of the members of the committee and a report on its work, including its required recommendations to Congress, and a list of its meetings during the current administration. The deadline for the information is September 18th, with an earlier deadline for the names of the Task Force’s members.

Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources, signed the letter along with Reps. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Darren Soto (D-FL), Lucille RoybalL-Allard, Jose Serrano (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Ruben Gallego, and Adriano Espaillat

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