As the U.S. Senate considered the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Ac (PROMESA), the new law intended to help Puerto Rico cope with the current fiscal crisis by creating a fiscal oversight board, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey offered the following amendment (SA 4908):
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, during any period in which there is an Oversight Board in effect for Puerto Rico under this Act, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico shall have a vote in the House of Representatives.
The Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico is the only voice Puerto Rico has in Congress. It is a very limited voice, however, because the Resident Commissioner is not allowed to cast a vote. The current Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, was instrumental in drafting the bill yet he could not vote for final passage of PROMESA.
This means that 3.5 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico had no say in a critical decision made on their behalf in the U.S. Congress.
The Menendez amendment would have offered a measure of democratic participation to Puerto Rico during the time that the island is under the purview of the fiscal oversight board.
The amendment was never granted the opportunity for a vote.
PROMESA passed with no amendments in the Senate, and the bill went straight to the President’s desk for signature.
Puerto Rico will remain a U.S. territory, subject to Congress’s control and lacking a voice, until the Island’s status is permanently resolved.