The Puerto Rico Status Act, HR 2757, has been reintroduced in Congress with six cosponsors. The bill, which is nearly identical to the Puerto Rico Status Act which passed the House in December 2022, has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, resident commissioner for Puerto Rico, is a member of that committee. She has expressed her intention to hold hearings on the bill soon so that Congress can vote on it. She is also working to get a companion bill introduced in the Senate, where Puerto Rico has no representation.
In 2022, The Puerto Rico Status Act passed in the House, but it was too late in the session to send it on to the Senate. By starting earlier this time, the bill may have a better chance of completing the process of becoming a law: it must pass the House and the Senate, and then be signed into law by the president.
Congress can admit new states with a simple majority vote. Alaska got just 53% of the votes in the House when it became a state. But it is customary in Congress now not to call a vote until there is certainty that the votes are ready. Voting on a question without being sure it will pass can mean the end of a bill, even when the loss is caused by a lack of information. We have seen in Congressional discussions of Puerto Rico statehood that some members of Congress do not have basic information about Puerto Rico, even on matters of fact like the official languages of the territory.
While several territories which are now states lost votes on admission in Congress and came back to try again (and became states!), this is not how Congress operates now. The number of cosponsors a bill has is now an important sign of whether or not it is likely to pass.
HR 2757 has six original cosponsors:
- Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
- Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR)
- Darren Soto (D-FL)
- Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
- Ritchie Torres (D-NY)
Rep. Nydia Velazquez was born in Puerto Rico but lives in and represents New York in Congress. She worked with Rep. Gonzalez-Colon to craft the compromise bill. She supported “enhanced commonwealth” for many years, but more recently seems to favor free association.
Rep. Gonzalez-Colon is, as previously mentioned, the resident commissioner for Puerto Rico. She is the only representative for the territory in Congress, and she does not have the power to vote on laws, including laws about Puerto Rico. She is a supporter of statehood, and works tirelessly for Puerto Rico.
Rep. Darren Soto is a Floridian of Puerto Rican heritage. He is a longtime statehood supporter who frequently works with Rep. Gonzalez-Colon on laws to benefit Puerto Rico. Many Puerto Ricans are his constituents in Florida.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland was instrumental in bringing the Puerto Rico Status Act to the floor last year. In his remarks introducing the bill, he said, “I rise in support of the people of Puerto Rico and their island. Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent have had an important place in the American family for over a century. They contribute to American culture. They help protect America’s national security. They support the American economy and our shared prosperity. They are American citizens like you and me. For far too long, however, the people of Puerto Rico have been excluded from the full promise of American democracy and self-determination that our nation has always championed.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage. She helped to craft the Puerto Rico Status Act and voted for it in the House last December.
Rep. Ritchie Torres is another New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage. He favors statehood for Puerto Rico. He voted for the Puerto Rico Status Act in the House in December.
Puerto Rico has no senators, and just one non-voting representative in the House. Members of Congress naturally listen most to their constituents. If you live in a state, please tell your representatives that you want them to cosponsor HR 2757. This bill will allow Puerto Rico’s voters to choose between statehood and nationhood. It will stop the colony.