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Islands’ Representative Rebuts Senators Speaking for “Commonwealth” Governor

Two U.S. senators who have spoken before for Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and his “Commonwealth” party did again late yesterday.

Roger Wicker (R-MS) is a very conservative Republican close to a conservative Republican Party operative who has long lobbied for “Commonwealth” party officials. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a very conservative Democrat who says he will support Garcia because he is Puerto Rico’s governor.  The two spoke about legislation that calls for Federal action on statehood for the territory if Puerto Ricans vote for the status a second time.  They did Election Day in 2012 in a plebiscite in which Puerto Ricans chose statehood.  They also spoke of the Commonwealth’s economic challenges and strengths.

Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, Pedro Pierluisi, responded shortly afterwards.  Pierluisi was the top vote getter for all offices in Puerto Rico in the 2012 elections, has a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote only in committees, and heads the territory’s statehood party.  His statement follows:

“Today, Senator Wicker and Senator Manchin spoke on the Senate floor about Puerto Rico, including about the territory’s political status and the forthcoming GAO [Government Accountability Office] report on the fiscal impact of Puerto Rico statehood on the Federal government.  Because Puerto Rico is a territory, there are no senators from the island who can directly respond to the senators from West Virginia and Mississippi, point by point, on the Senate Floor.  But I will respond briefly now.

“Neither senator, in discussing the November 2012 plebiscite, mentioned that 54 percent of voters rejected the current territory status, sometimes called “Commonwealth,” and that the people of Puerto Rico are thereby being governed without their consent.  Neither senator recognized that statehood obtained 834,000 votes, which is more votes than any other status option—including the current territory status—received.  These are rather glaring omissions, to say the least.

“Both senators expressed opposition to the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, which they have every right to do.  But to argue, as they did, that the legislation—by calling for an up-or-down vote on Puerto Rico’s admission as a State—excludes options other than statehood is false and, indeed, illogical.  A binary vote, by definition, is not exclusive:  those who support statehood can vote “Yes” and those who oppose it can vote “No.”  This was precisely the format of the votes that led to Hawaii and Alaska becoming states.  Do Senator Wicker and Senator Manchin believe those earlier votes were unfair or exclusionary?  In any event, there are 132 Members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate who have cosponsored H.R. 2000 and S. 2020 and therefore disagree with Senator Wicker’s and Senator Manchin’s characterization of the bill.

“Curiously, Senator Wicker expressed support for the $2.5 million appropriation that I urged President Obama to include in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget request and that was signed into law in January as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. This expression of support is directly contrary to the remarks he made on the Senate Floor on May 23, 2013, in which he said “I am disappointed that the most recent budget proposal submitted to Congress by the White House recommends $2.5 million in fiscal year 2014 to conduct yet another referendum on Puerto Rico’s political status.”  I am pleased that Senator Wicker has evidently changed his mind.

“Both Senators noted that they were looking forward to the release of the GAO report on the fiscal impact of statehood on the Federal government.  I think they will find the contents of the report interesting and surprising.  And I must say:  I have the greatest respect for the people of Mississippi and West Virginia.  Residents of those States cherish their American citizenship, just as my constituents do.  Residents of those States serve in large numbers in the U.S. military, just as my constituents do.  But in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, Mississippi received $22.3 billion more from the Federal government than it contributed in total individual and corporate taxes.  That same year, West Virginia received $15.5 billion more from the Federal government than it contributed in federal taxes.  Nobody should—or ever would—suggest that Mississippi and West Virginia’s immense value to our Nation can be captured by numbers on a ledger, or that they are somehow not deserving of statehood.  I expect the same respect to be accorded to the 3.6 million American citizens that I am privileged to represent.

“I look forward to the day when my constituents will have the same rights and responsibilities as Senator Wicker’s and Senator Manchin’s constituents.  We do not seek special treatment.  We seek only equality.  And we intend to achieve it.”       

0 thoughts on “Islands’ Representative Rebuts Senators Speaking for “Commonwealth” Governor”

  1. No surprise coming from two Senators from two of the poorest States in the Nation and first in lynching of former slaves hounded in the Bible Belt States of the USA. Hypocrites talking from both sides of their mouths. Both shame the USA which is now being ridiculed by Venezuela and all the other Western Hemisphere nations long ignored by the Northern neighbor, Yes, the USA foreign policies are shameful, and the colonial status of Puerto Rico a shame that cannot continued to be hidden or play football with. Statehood or Independence NOW!

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