The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a second day of hearings on Puerto Rico’s status on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, according to El Nuevo Dia. The first day of hearings pitted HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act, against HR 2070, the AOC-Velazquez bill proposing a constitutional convention for Puerto Rico.
Witnesses at the first hearing, as well as at least one member of Congress, stated that HR 2070 contained unconstitutional provisions.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the chair of the committee, delayed the planned second day of hearings while waiting on the Department of Justice to analyze the two bills under consideration. According to El Nuevo Dia, Grijalva has received the analysis of the bills and is now prepared to hold the second day of hearings.
One of the concerns about HR 2070 is that it calls for a vote among any non-territorial status proposals the status convention comes up with. In fact, the only viable status options for Puerto Rico are statehood or independence, with or without a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Critics claim that HR 2070 will allow nonviable options to be on the ballot, in defiance of the U.S. Constitution.
Another concern is that the bill says that “Congress shall approve a joint resolution to ratify the preferred self-determination option approved in that referendum vote.” In fact, Congress cannot be instructed to approve or ratify a hypothetical vote.
HR 1522 uses the same procedure used to admit Alaska and Hawaii, in which the Constitutionally accepted option of statehood is presented to voters for either their acceptance or rejection. There have been no Constitutional issues raised over the proposal.
Velazquez is sponsoring an “information session” with Law Professors Rafael Cox Alomar, from the University of Washington DC; Annette Martínez Orabona, from the Interamerican University; and Efrén Rivera Ramos, from the University of Puerto Rico for “congressional officials” before the hearing, according to El Nuevo Dia. These academics will presumably present counterarguments to the claim that HR 2070 contains unconstitutional provisions.