The House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees issues relating to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, will hold a hearing on two status proposals currently before Congress. The hearing is scheduled for April 14th, at 1:00 p.m.
HR 1522 calls for Congress to respond to the November 2020 referendum in which over 52% of Puerto Rico voters chose statehood. In this bill, Congress recognizes the local vote and accepts the will of the people of Puerto Rico to transition to statehood if the option again wins a majority in a ratification vote.
HR 2070 does not recognize the November plebiscite. It instead proposes a new process, beginning with a status convention of elected delegates who will come up with unlimited status proposals to be presented to the people of Puerto Rico in a different referendum. A federal congressional committee would be established to advise the process and produce regular reports on the deliberations. This bill does not commit Congress to ratify the majority position in that referendum; it cannot do so as a local vote is never binding on the U.S. Congress.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said, “I look forward to hearing about both bills to come to an equitable, and hopefully final, federal agreement on a process to resolve the island’s ultimate political status.”
The hearing is scheduled for April 14, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Invited witnesses, subject to change:
H.R. 1522 (Rep. Soto), “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act”
- The Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico
- Ms. Johanne Vélez-García, Vice President, Puerto Rico Democratic Party
- Mr. José Fuentes, Chair, Puerto Rico Statehood Council
- Dr. Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
H.R. 2070 (Rep. Velázquez), “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021”
- The Hon. Rafael Hernández, Speaker, Puerto Rico House of Representatives
- The Hon. María de Lourdes Santiago, Vice President, Puerto Rican Independence Party
- The Hon. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, Former Governor, Popular Democratic Party
- The Hon. Manuel Natal, Former Representative, Citizens Victory Movement
A status hearing was planned in 2020, but did not take place. The last Congressional hearing on the subject was in 2013, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) chaired a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The committee on that occasion agreed that Puerto Rico would need to choose between statehood and independence. Wyden said that allowing only viable options to be on the ballot “is essential to ensuring that the proposed new ‘commonwealth status’ or a proposal with similar features will not be on the ballot.”
“Persistence in supporting this option,” he continued, “undermines resolution of Puerto Rico’s status question.”
While HR 1522 is careful to present a straight up or down vote on statehood – an clearly understood, Constitutional and feasible option – to the people of Puerto Rico, HR 2070 puts no limitations on ballot options. Any number of choices could be on the proposed new referendum, and there is no mechanism that these options comply with the U.S. Constitution.