The official transcript of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing August 1st on Puerto Rico’s status issue has just been released.
The hearing by the Senate committee with lead responsibility for the political status of territories was on Puerto Rico’s status plebiscite last November and the Obama Administration’s response.
It was especially notable for a number of reasons. One was that Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) opened and closed the hearing stating that Puerto Rico’s status issue could only be resolved through a Puerto Rican choice of statehood or nationhood and calling for such a choice.
Another was that he and the other members of the Committee who spoke understood that Puerto Ricans rejected continuing the current territory status, sometimes misleadingly called “Commonwealth,” in the plebiscite.
They also agreed that the Puerto Rico ‘commonwealth’ party’s proposal for a new “Commonwealth status” is impossible for constitutional and other reasons. Wyden emphasized that it is important “the proposed new ‘commonwealth status’ or a proposal with similar features will not be on the ballot” of a future status choice in Puerto Rico because it is not a possible option for the territory.
Under the “commonwealth” proposal, the U.S. would be bound to Puerto Rico being able to nullify Federal laws and court jurisdiction and to enter into international agreements as if it were a nation. The U.S. would also have to grant Puerto Rico greater economic benefits than at present and to continue to grant U.S. citizenship.
Wyden and others also concluded that not having a decision on eventual statehood or nationhood contributes to Puerto Rico’s economic and social problems, as had President Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.
Also especially notable was that “Commonwealth” party president Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the territory’s current Governor, was unable to clearly explain the party’s new “Commonwealth status” proposal, suggested the new “Commonwealth status” proposal was viable because of past “Commonwealth” proposals that were rejected by Federal officials, and argued that Puerto Rico was not a territory contrary to the consistent Federal position that it is.