Once a bill, like the Puerto Rico Status Act, is introduced in the House, the next step in becoming a law is to introduce a Senate companion bill. Of course, a bill can also start in the Senate and then have a House companion bill. In this case, the bill passed in the House of Representatives in 2022 and is being reintroduced in the House
What’s a Senate companion bill?
Every bill that becomes law must be passed in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate. These are the two divisions of the U.S. Congress. The bill must then go to the president for a signature, at which point it is a law.
It can happen that the bills offered in the House and the Senate are different from one another. Often, however, the bills introduced in the two parts of Congress are identical, or very similar. In that case, they are called companion bills.
Why have companion bills?
Legislators in the House and the Senate may have similar views on an issue. If they can have their bills considered at the same time in the House and in the Senate, both bills might be considered quickly and the chances of success are increased.
For example, the Puerto Rico Status Act passed in the House in December, 2022. It was so late in the year that there was no time to introduce and pass a Senate companion bill. Now that the Puerto Rico Status Act is being re-introduced in the House, there is time to introduce and pass a companion bill in the Senate.
If two bills on the same subject are passed in the two parts of Congress but they are very different, the situation is quite different. The two bills must be harmonized before they go to the president for a signature. For example, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a Puerto Rico Status Act in the Senate in 2022. It was similar to the Puerto Rico Status Act passed in the House, except that it included the option to continue as a territory.
Puerto Rico rejected the idea of continuing as a territory in 2012.
This bill was not seriously considered. If it had passed, however, there would have been two different bills with the same name and topic, but they would not be similar enough to send to the president for a signature. The Senate and the House would have had to work to come to an agreement on what the bill should say before it could have become law.
This time, we hope that an identical or nearly identical companion bill will be presented in the Senate. Puerto Rico has no senators, so it will be important that people living in the states reach out to their senators to encourage them to line up on the right side of history and pass the bill.
Puerto Rico has a representative in the House, but she cannot vote — even for a bill on Puerto Rico’s status. It will be equally important for people living in states to encourage their House members to cosponsor and pass the Puerto Rico Status Act.
Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States for more than a century. It is time to correct this. Puerto Rico should not be a colony and the United States should not hold a colony against the expressed wishes of the people. Join us!