Although The Puerto Rico Status Act (HR 8393), was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago, the vote was not unanimous.
Support for the bill was bipartisan, but so was the opposition. The criticism against the bill mainly focused on the process – notably the relatively short amount of time the committee had to review the bill’s specifics even though hearings were held in Puerto Rico – as well as the ultimate end of U.S. citizenship in a new country of Puerto Rico, how the U.S. would handle Puerto Rico’s debt during a transition, and traditional concerns as to whether Spanish could still be spoken in a state of Puerto Rico. Spanish is widely used in many states of the United States today.
Two left-leaning democrats on the Committee, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), voted against the bill in committee.
Garcia joined Republicans in lamenting the lack of hearings on the bill, apart from the public hearings held in San Juan. In a statement, he said, “I could not in good faith support the passage of H.R. 8393, Puerto Rico Status Act in its current form… [T]he bill lacks clarity and specificity on key issues for my constituents and their loved ones on the island including how U.S. citizenship would be defined under Sovereignty in Free Association, the status of Puerto Rico in the Olympic games, and the future of the island’s debt and tax policies.”
“We’ve been to Puerto Rico and heard from the people there,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said. “Who in Puerto Rico have we not heard from yet?”
Only residents of Puerto Rico will be eligible to vote on the status question.
Apart from Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), all the Republicans on the committee voted against HR 8393.
Several members proposed amendments on a variety of subjects including language use in government, ballot options, travel and work authorization, Department of Defense assets, debts, and more.
Several Republican members spoke out against approving the bill on the grounds that there had been no hearings on this particular bill, though they agreed that there had been lots of hearings on the subject of Puerto Rico status and that no other relevant committees had been given the chance to vet the bill or provide input.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) had already told El Nuevo Dia that he did not feel that he had enough information to vote on the bill.