Congress is currently considering two bills on Puerto Rico’s status. One is a statehood bill, very much like the bills that allowed Alaska and Hawaii to gain their statehood. It recognizes the votes which have shown that the majority of Puerto Rico voters prefer statehood to the other possible statehood options (independence and continued territory status).
The other is a misleadingly titled “self-determination” bill which calls for a complicated process which will attempt to find some other viable option apart from the three possibilities which the federal government recognizes as possible under the U.S. Constitution.
We favor the statehood bill, HR 1522. However, there is at present a stalemate. Advocates of both the current bills are therefore trying to come up with a compromise bill which both sides can support.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón issued a joint statement:
“We both know that the question of Puerto Rico’s status is at the center of the island’s future. While we’ve long held our separate positions for many years, there is no doubt this is an issue close to both of our hearts. That’s why we have decided to come to the table and negotiate a path forward towards decolonialization of the island.
After multiple productive meetings, today we believe we are closer than ever to an agreement.”
Steny Hoyer told El Nuevo Dia that “real progress has been achieved.”
However supporters of both bills have made statements on the non-negotiable items in the bills. Supporters of the Velazquez bill are determined to hold a status convention, even though the only viable options are already well known. Supporters of the statehood bill are determined to have respect for Puerto Rico’s vote.
Both sides seem to agree that they want a commitment from Congress. Without that, Congress can continue to ignore any further decisions made by Puerto Rico.
An example of a compromise bill
Constitutional scholars Rafael Cox Alomar & Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus submitted a compromise bill proposal to Rep. Grijalva, chair of the committee that oversees Puerto Rico, in October 2021. Their bill had the following points:
- There should be another referendum among all the status options.
- Congress should define the status options. While some activists feel strongly that Puerto Rico, not Congress, should define the options, the truth is that Congress will not accept every idea presented to them. Puerto Rico should have the chance to vote among options that Congress will accept.
- Congress must agree to implement the decision made by Puerto Rico’s voters. Congress can’t promise anything on behalf of a future Congress, but can determine that the president will take action on any of the viable options which they have defined.
- Congress should provide and pay for an educational campaign to clarify all the options and clear up any misconceptions.
This compromise bill is possible. Perhaps it may inspire an agreement that will bring a status bill to the floor of Congress for a vote.
Of course, Rep. Gonzalez Colon will not be able to vote on such a bill. Voters in the states can help by educating their representatives about the issues, serving as Puerto Rico’s voice.