Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s bill on statehood for the territory has won more endorsements on U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Website for registering public support for legislation than any other bill in the House.
Republican Leader Cantor’s “Citizen Cosponsor Project” Website, www.cosponsor.gov, lets individuals express support for bills by indicating that they would “co-sponsor” the measures. People back the Pierluisi bill on statehood by going to the site and checking the box next to the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, H.R. 2000 (http://cosponsor.gov/details/hr2000-113).
As of this writing, 1145 individuals had done that. The number dwarfed the 897 who supported the second-place finisher, the Fair Tax Act of 2013, and the 549 who backed the third most popular bill, the Border Security Results Act of 2013.
Some 70 Members of the House have actually co-sponsored the bill on statehood for Puerto Rico. The latest prominent sponsor is Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma).
The bill would require the President of the United States to submit a proposal for the transition of Puerto Rico to statehood if Puerto Ricans vote for statehood in another plebiscite. It would also express a congressional commitment to pass a statehood transition bill for the territory.
In a plebiscite on all of Puerto Rico’s status options last November, 54% rejected the current territory status, often misleadingly called “commonwealth,” and 61.2% voted for statehood among the alternatives, nationhood in non-binding association with the U.S. and full independence.
The Obama Administration has also proposed another plebiscite. The U.S. Attorney General would determine its options from among proposals submitted by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission.
The plebiscite could be only on statehood, as proposed by the Pierluisi bill, or include one or more of Puerto Rico’s other options.
The Obama Administration plebiscite could not include the unprecedented “commonwealth” status proposal of Puerto Rico’s “commonwealth” party. This is because the proposal “is incompatible with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S.” The Obama Administration joined the George W. Bush and Clinton Administrations in judging the proposal to be a constitutional impossibility.
The proposal calls for the elimination of Congress’ power under the Constitution to govern Puerto Rico as a territory without the islands becoming a State or a nation. It relatedly calls for a governing arrangement that the Federal government would not be able to change without Puerto Rico’s consent.
Under the arrangement, Puerto Rico would have the powers to nullify the application of Federal laws and Federal court jurisdiction and to enter into international agreements and organizations as if it were a sovereign nation — without becoming a nation.
The Federal government would be required to grant the insular government a new subsidy as well as continue to grant all current assistance and citizenship to Puerto Ricans.
The lead congressional committees with jurisdiction over the status of territories, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee have said that they will hold hearings on the plebiscite.
The Senate committee planned to hold the hearing June 11th but postponed it because of a death in the family of Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The hearing is expected to be held during the next few months.
The House committee hearing is expected after the Government Accountability Office submits a report on the budgetary impact of equal treatment of Puerto Rico in all Federal laws requested by Committee Chairman ‘Doc” Hastings (R-Washington). It is now planned that the report will be completed this fall.