Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D/Statehood) has released a statement commending President Obama for including a $2.5 million appropriations request to fund the first federally-sponsored status vote in Puerto Rico’s history.
“Today is an historic day for all of us who have been fighting for equality and justice for Puerto Rico. The White House has recognized that, on November 6, 2012, a majority of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico withdrew their consent to the current territory status, which deprives them of the most fundamental democratic rights,” announced Pierluisi.
Pierluisi specifically endorsed two aspects of the budget language, which directs the federal funding to the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission to be used to conduct “objective, nonpartisan voter education” and a federally-sponsored vote on “options that would resolve Puerto Rico’s future political status.” First, Pierluisi explained that the emphasis to “resolve Puerto Rico’s future political status” is of critical importance because “Puerto Rico cannot resolve its future status by maintaining the same undemocratic and undignified territory status that our people have endured for 115 years and that they soundly rejected in the November 2012 plebiscite.” He added that the “only way to resolve the Island’s future political status is through statehood or national sovereignty—either full independence or nationhood in free association with the United States.”
Pierluisi also noted that the budget text requires the contents of the plebiscite ballot and all voter education materials prepared by the Commission to be approved by the U.S. Attorney General to ensure that they are “not incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws and policies of the United States.” He explained that this language “can be interpreted in only one way, namely as excluding the impossible status proposals that the Popular Democratic Party has put forward over the years, and that have been declared unworkable as a matter of both law and policy by every federal official who has examined those proposals, including the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status in its March 2011 report.”
The Pierluisi press release called the President’s budget “a significant and natural next step” in light of the White House statement that followed the November 2012 plebiscite, which confirmed that: “The results were clear: the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question. Now it is time for Congress to act and the Administration will work with them on that effort, so that the people of Puerto Rico can determine their own future.”
Pierluisis has committed to introduce Puerto Rico self determination legislation in mid-May after receivng recommendations from the New Progressive Party’s status commission.
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi was not the only member of the House of Representative to announce a position on the budget langauge today. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Democratic Whip, also issued a statement in support of the provision. He said: “I am pleased that President Obama has included in his budget a request to conduct the first federally-sponsored status vote in Puerto Rico’s history, responding to the November plebiscite held in Puerto Rico where voters rejected the current territory status and expressed a desire for statehood. I look forward to working with Resident Commissioner Pierluisi to enact this appropriations request into law so that the people of Puerto Rico can resolve the status question.”
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, also explained: “I fully support President Obama’s request for a $2.5 million appropriation to conduct a federally-sponsored political status vote in Puerto Rico, which would be the first in the territory’s history and which I hope will finally bring resolution to this longstanding issue. The President’s request is an appropriate response to the interest that a majority of the U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico have expressed about the desirability of changing their island’s current political status. In a vote held last November, a majority of Puerto Ricans made it clear that they did not support continuing Puerto Rico’s current status as a Commonwealth. More voters expressed a preference for statehood than for any other status option. I agree with President Obama that the appropriate next step to take following this vote is for a formal plebiscite in Puerto Rico on the various options that would resolve the Island’s political status. I pledge to work with the President, Resident Commissioner Pierluisi, and my colleagues in the House in an effort to enact this appropriations request into law.”