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Senate Committee Chair Murkowski and Puerto Rico’s Status

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources has scheduled a hearing for October 22 to consider Puerto Rico’s economy, debt, and options for Congress moving forward.

Witnesses have not been announced.

The Senate Finance Committee held a similar hearing on September 29th.  A broad range of issues was discussed, including Puerto Rico’s treatement under federal health and tax laws, two issues under the Committee’s jurisdiction.

Finance Committee members did not discuss the issue of Puerto Rico’s status, which falls instead under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

It is unclear whether the Energy Committee’s interest in examining “options for Congress moving forward” will include consideration of Puerto Rico’s political status.

Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), however, who has been the lead Republican on the committee for several years, has expressed her opinion on the status issue.

In 2010, Senator Murkowski, then Ranking Member on the Committee, signed a letter with then-Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), making clear her position that only four status options are available for Puerto Rico’s future relations with the U.S.: (1) continuation of the current Commonwealth status (under Article IV of the Constitution); (2) statehood; (3) independence; and (4) Free Association(as with the nations of the former Trust Territory of the pacific Islands).

Citing a 2001 letter sent from the U.S. Department of Jusitice  to the Committee, Murkowski and Bingaman note that “a fifth option, ‘New Commonwealth,’ is incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws of the United States in several respects.”

In 2013, Senator Murkowski, who was still the lead Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, again signed a letter addressing Puerto Rico’s status with the Committee’s chairman, who was then Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the letter, Murkowski and Wyden emphasized that “[w]hatever formal process or processes are used to formally consider the status question, we write to stress that non-viable status options such as ‘enhanced commonwealth’ should not be considered, as they confuse the debate and undermine efforts to resolve this issue of great importance to both Puerto Rico and the United States.”

The 2013 letter, written in the immediate aftermath of Puerto Rico’s 2012 vote on status, recognized that the historic plebiscite demonstrated that “a majority of Puerto Ricans do not support the current relationship with the United States” but noted the lack of agreement on the process to be used to resolve the status issue.

In 2014, Congress enacted a law to provide for a federally sanctioned new plebiscite in Puerto Rico.

4 thoughts on “Senate Committee Chair Murkowski and Puerto Rico’s Status”

  1. Why no action? Simple;
    1 Lack of knowledge among some congressmen ‘women that PR is US soil. Therefore, the people are seen as foreigners.
    As Rob Menendez states; “Its shocking some of my coleages think they need a passport to go to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a US Territory &all Puerto Ricans are born American citizens.

    2 Vast majority of GOP believe PR will be all Democrat state.

    3 Vast Majority of Dems believe PR will be a swing OR “purple” state. Therefore not reliable. The last Governor was a Republican.

    4. Massive lobbying in congress by right wing groups like English Only,Heritage Foundation,National Review,Charlie Black,Prime Policy Group paid for by the Populist Democrat Party of Puerto Rico using public funds from PR!

    5 when the status bills die in Congress,the very same PPD party tells Puerto Ricans in spanish; “US anti PR racism was the reason. The republican “gringo” doesn’t want us!

    This makes right wing groups accepting money from the PPD useful idiots that further the Democrat party agenda of portraying the GOP as anti Latino. The PPD is an arm of the US Dem party.

    Ironically both statehood bills that passed the US house in 1998 and 2010 passes with GOP majority support. The PPD won’t say that in PR in spanish.

    This is why the PPD eliminated english from PR public schools.To prevent PR from bonding with their American bretheren!

  2. It is now widely speculated that Gov Padilla (The anti statehood tax & spend/sell bonds liberal Despot who adopted the separatists Cuban blue version of the PR flag as the new official flag) WILL NOT ATTEND.


    Its believed he’ll yet again send Cesar Miranda,or Eduardo Bhatia,or Jaime Perello. (Some elite PPD official to dance around economic and status questions

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