House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY) took the unusual step of presenting remarks before the markup of HR 8393, The Puerto Rico Status Act.
“As a principle, America supports strongly across the world, self-determination. We support in almost every region of the world the opportunity of peoples who are in a region or in a state to make a determination as to whether or not they want to be aligned with others or whether they want to be independent entities. That’s a principle of our government and our foreign policy and of our human rights perspectives,” Hoyer began. Acknowledging that the bill, which was a compromise among people with very different ideas about Puerto Rico’s status, is imperfect and does not give anyone exactly what they want, he nonetheless emphasized, “But at the heart of this bill, is the ability to give to the citizens of Puerto Rico, who also are citizens of the United States, the right to determine their own future. That’s what this is about.”
“I know there will be amendments about this, that, and the other,” Hoyer continued. In fact, members of the committee presented multiple amendments, all of which failed.
“I’ll tell you, I appreciate the position that has been expressed by the Representative of Puerto Rico that if we start amending this bill, we will do what’s happened now for decades or a century,” said Hoyer, referring to Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR). “We will end up nowhere. We will end up being a colonialist power.”
Hoyer went on to reflect on the American approach to territories. “One of the things I say around the world is that no country in the world has had so much hegemony power as the United States of America and used it so non-acquisitively. Almost every other great power throughout the centuries has acquired colonies, has acceded to themselves the natural resources of those colonies, the enterprise of those colonies, the economic positive aspects of those colonies. America has not done that.”
“In fact, what we’ve done is those countries that have been our opponents, we have built up over the years and made them part of the free world and our allies.”
Hoyer concluded with thanks directed toward Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Natural Resources Committee. “So, Mr. Chairman, I thank you. I thank the Members of this committee for proceeding on this. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your working with all of the players to try to get to a place where everybody has been treated fairly. And I would hope very sincerely that this committee would take a historical step of moving this forward so that we could put it on the Floor of the House of Representatives, so the House of Representatives can — not make a decision itself, but give to the people of Puerto Rico the option making a democratic choice on their own status. That’s what America is about. And that’s what frankly, we’ve done with so many territories in our own country. And that’s what I think we want to give to the people of Puerto Rico. Thank you Mr. Chairman.”
Watch the video of the remarks.