Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Puerto Rico eyes statehood status

By Brian DeBose

Washington Times (April 26, 2008)

The status of Puerto Rico — commonwealth, U.S. state or independent — could be settled soon by the island’s populace if Congress will allow it.

Earlier this week, a bill to allow Puerto Rico residents to hold an official vote on whether to become a U.S. state or continue commonwealth status, passed a congressional committee for the first time, and the head of Puerto Rico’s governing party says the time has never been more ripe for the Caribbean island to become the 51st state.

The New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, which is pro-statehood, has been trying to get Congress to sanction a vote for more than two years and says it thinks a bill can be passed this year. Previous referendums on the island’s status have been held by its government without U.S. authorization.
“In the past, we’ve never had a federally sanctioned vote, which caused turnout to drop to about 70 percent, and we feel we can reach our average of 83 percent participation if we have Congress’ support,” said Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, a party member.

Mr. McClintock’s party is at the height of its political power, controlling both Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and Senate, and 42 of the island’s 78 mayoral posts. Party Chairman Luis Fortuno is the territory’s nonvoting delegate to Congress. In addition to that, their chief rival and leader of the opposing party, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila has been indicted on 19 count of campaign-finance violations and mail fraud, negating his ability to effectively advocate against the bill.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, New York Democrat, introduced the Puerto Rico Democracy Act in 2006, along with with Mr. Fortuno, but the bill had been languishing in committee until this week. “I am very pleased that the process is finally moving forward to allow Puerto Ricans the ability to decide once and for all whether they would like to be a state or an independent nation,” Mr. Serrano said.

Mr. McClintock wants a congressional floor vote by summer in order for his party to reach its goal of a referendum on the territory’s status before the end of next year. “We are very excited now, because my trip here was to advocate for the bill to come out of committee, and an hour before I arrived Tuesday, it was moved, and we are now calling for Congress to hold a vote on the floor,” he said. Mr. McClintock is also involved in the Democratic presidential race as co-chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s National Hispanic Leadership Council.

He said it should be no surprise that recent polls of Puerto Rico voters show her getting 50 percent to Mr. Obama’s 37 percent in advance of the island’s June 1 Democratic primary, in which 63 delegates are up for grabs. While both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have significant Puerto Rican populations in their states, her policy record is far more robust in terms of issues specific to Puerto Rico.

“In six years, she has either sponsored or worked to get passed a number of bills, including the domestic-manufacturing tax cut, and working to expand the child care tax credit so that any Puerto Rican with a child is eligible,” he said. Currently, Puerto Ricans must have three or more children to receive a child tax credit. He also said Mrs. Clinton has visited the island many times, most notably after Hurricane Georges to make sure the island received Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. Mr. Obama’s only recent trip has been a fundraiser, in which he met with Mr. Acevedo Vila, but not with Mr. McClintock.

“Senator Obama has not sponsored or co-sponsored any legislation related to Puerto Rico,” Mr. McClintock said. “I have had two private meetings and one political meeting with her, and none with him.”


States News Service (April 22, 2008)

WASHINGTON — The following information was released by the office of Puerto Rico Rep. Luis G. Fortuno:

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007, co-sponsored by Congressman Jose Serrano and Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuno, advanced another step today in the U.S. Congress when the Committee on Natural Resources in the House of Representatives issued the official Committee Report for the bill (H.R. 900), which authorizes a self-determination process for Puerto Rico. The Report, which follows in the wake of the bill’s approval by the Committee on October 23, 2007, states that the legislation will enable Puerto Ricans to vote in a Congressionally-authorized plebiscite on the Island within a year of the bill’ enactment.

With this Committee Report, we have taken another step towards our goal of providing the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico with a just, representative and constitutionally-viable process to put an end to the ambiguous political environment in which we currently live, said Fortuño, who praised the facts and conclusions contained in the Report.

In the Report, the members of the Committee observed that after 110 years, Puerto Rico’ 3.9 million U.S. citizens still have an unsettled political status. The Committee Report reiterated the fact that although Congress has the authority to manage the self-determination process for Puerto Rico based on constitutionally-viable options, a Congressionally-sponsored vote in Puerto Rico has never taken place in more than a century under U.S. sovereignty.

This Report proves wrong those who have insisted that Congress does not want to attend to the issue of Puerto Rico’ status, said the Resident Commissioner, who noted that in the last three years Congress held four hearings regarding this legislation which culminated in the Committee’s approval of the legislation in October, and that all of this was accomplished despite the open opposition of Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vila. The Report reiterates that all peoples are entitled to a form of government that provides for equal voting representation in the making and implementation of their laws.

I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that my constituents enjoy a just self-determination process and that we achieve our goal of a political system that guarantees us equal rights, said Fortuño, who thanked his colleagues on the Committee for the work they did in preparing the Report.