While we consider HR 1522 the right bill for Puerto Rico’s status — it respects the November 2020 vote, which had a majority in favor of statehood — Congress has now come up with a compromise bill that also includes ideas from HR 2070. This may seem like a strange idea, but we’ve seen Congress make changes to status bills before.
For example, H.R.856, the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, had four different versions and 13 proposed amendments before it was passed. This bill planned a referendum choosing Puerto Rico’s status among the three possible options.
The 13 amendments
Rep. Luis Gutierrez was the champion at proposing amendments to the bill. Here are the amendments he proposed:
- Not requiring the payment of federal income tax until Puerto Rico’s income equalled that of the states
- Continuing to allow Puerto Rico to field a team at the Olympics
- Deleting the Findings section of the bill
- Deleting mention of the Treaty of Paris
- Adding language recognizing Puerto Rico as a separate nation
- Allowing people born in the states but who had at least one parent born in Puerto Rico to vote in the referendum
- Making Spanish the official language of Puerto Rico
All of these amendments failed.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who is still a member of Congress, proposed an amendment, too:
- Recognizing separate citizenship for Puerto Rico, distinct from U.S. citizenship
This amendment also failed.
More failed amendments
Rep. Bib Barr proposed an amendment requiring a 75% super-majority for statehood — only for statehood, not the other options. A majority is a majority in U.S. elections, so this one also failed.
Rep. Cliff Stearns proposed a run-off election between the two options with the most votes. This one also failed.
Rep. Jose Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico but lived in New York, proposed allowing people born in Puerto Rico but living in the states to vote in the referendum. Gutierrez, who was born in Illinois, tried to substitute his amendment calling for the children of people born in Puerto Rico to vote in the referendum. We understand why both of them wanted to be able to vote, but people in one state are not allowed to make decisions for another state. The amendment failed.
One passed amendment
Rep. Gerald Solomon proposed that English would have to be the official language of Puerto Rico, and that all official communications must be made in English. Rep. Dan Burton made a substitute amendment saying that the language requirements for Puerto Rico should be the same as for all other states. That amendment passed.
Once The Puerto Rico Status bill gets to the floor of the House and Senate, there will doubtless be amendments proposed. This kind of discussion is an important part of the democratic process.