HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2021, is “in committee.” Bills are introduced to the full House of Representatives, and then they are sent to a committee. In this case, the committee is the House Committee on Natural Resources.
The chair of the committee can send the bill on to a subcommittee. If the chair decides not to send the bill to a subcommittee, the entire committee can hold a markup session — a discussion about the bill. In either the main committee or the subcommittee or both, there can also be hearings. Witnesses are invited to give more information about the bill or other factors, and to answer questions about the bill.
In this case, the chair of the committee is Raul Grijalva. His committee is considering two bills on Puerto Rico’s status. They have held one day of hearings and plan to hold more, but are waiting for legal opinions on the bills in question.
A bill can also stay in in committee and never come back to the floor of Congress. For example, HR 900, a bill for independence for Puerto Rico, was sent to the House Natural Resources Committee and then to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. It had no cosponsors, no hearings, and no markup session, so it died in committee. That means that it did not become a law. This happens to most bills that are introduced in Congress.
Committees and subcommittees can hold hearings so they can get the information they need to understand a bill fully. A hearing was held on HR 1522 and a competing bill, HR 2070. Some of the questions that came up in the discussion in the House Natural Resources Committee included these:
- Is the process in H.R. 1522 the same as in Alaska and Hawaii, the two most recent territories to become states? Alaska and Hawaii had up/ down votes on statehood after Congress had agreed to admit the territories as states. This is the same process HR 1522 proposes.
- Did a majority of Puerto Rican voters choose statehood? Yes, a clear majority voted for statehood in November.
- How many status options does Puerto Rico have under the U.S. Constitution? The constitutional scholars and many others in the discussion agree that statehood and independence are the only vial non-territorial options. However, this is one of the questions being checked on before the hearing continues.
- Can Congress make HR 2070 binding on itself? This one got “no” responses from scholars and Members of Congress alike. It is prolly also one of the questions being checked.
Once the subcommittee or the committee feels that they understand all the issues, there will be markup sessions which allow the committee members to make changes to the bills. Both the subcommittee and the committee can mark up the bills.
If the bill changes a great deal, there can even be a new bill introduced that includes all those changes.
The committee will then vote on the bill. They can report it back to the Congress with a favorable recommendation, saying that they believe it is a good bill. They can also report it back to the House with a negative recommendation or no recommendation at all. They can also choose not to vote on the bill — another chance for the bill to die in committee.
You can email the entire committee through the form on their website. If you see your representative on this list, please thank them and let them know that you support statehood!