Puerto Rico’s statehood party leadership yesterday agreed to seek Federal legislation to make the territory a State.
The legislation will be sponsored next month by the party president, who is also Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government with a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, although with a vote only in committees, Pedro Pierluisi (D). He was the highest vote getter in last year’s elections.
The party’s Board of Directors agreed that former Governor and Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Carlos Romero Barcelo, Party Vice President and Puerto Rico House of Representatives Minority Leader Jenniffer Gonzalez, as well as others, will assist Pierluisi in lobbying for the legislation. Romero will in particular work with Pierluisi in lobbying the U.S. Senate.
The legislation will complement President Obama’s proposal earlier this month of legislation to provide for a status plebiscite in Puerto Rico. The statehood party legislation will include a plebiscite on statehood.
Like Obama’s legislation, the party legislation responds to a plebiscite in Puerto Rico on political status questions held in conjunction with last November’s elections for office. The plebiscite rejected continuation of the islands’ current territory status by 54% and chose statehood among the possible alternatives by 61.2%.
But Puerto Rico’s new “commonwealth” party governor, elected by a tiny margin, and legislative majority dispute last year’s plebiscite. Their opposition to acting on the territory’s plebiscite petition to the Federal government to begin the transition to statehood based would make it highly unlikely that Congress would take such action.
Because of this, the Obama and statehood party legislation would confirm the status aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico under Federal auspices. That would make it extremely difficult for “commonwealth” party leaders like Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla to dispute another plebiscite.
Obama’s legislation is for a vote on options that are not incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws and policies of the U.S. The options — or option — would be proposed by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission, which has representation from all of the territory’s political parties, but ultimately determined by the attorney general of the U.S. The Obama legislation could be held on a plebiscite on statehood for the territory.
Leaders of the “commonwealth” party have previously called for Federal legislation for a vote on statehood in the territory. Some leaders of the small independence movement have as well.