This year’s Congress is finishing up, and they will not consider HR 6246, the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018.
HR 6246 was introduced in June and went to the House Committee on Natural Resources and then to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.
HR 6246 has 58 cosponsors, including 32 Democrats and 26 Republicans. Several of those cosponsors, members of the subcommittee working on HR 6246, sent a letter asking instead for a straightforward up or down vote on statehood.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) wrote to Governor Ricardo Rossello and other Puerto Rico leaders explaining their thinking.
“As you know, together with almost 60 other Members, we cosponsored the bipartisan bill authored by Resident Commissioner González-Colón to enable the admission of the territory as a State of the Union, H.R. 6246. This bill is the natural progression following the two most recent plebiscites conducted in Puerto Rico in 2012 and 2017, in which the voters overwhelmingly supported statehood…
“Given the overwhelming, pro-statehood results of the past two votes, we propose the following solution: legislate a new plebiscite that simply asks: ‘Statehood: Yes or No?’ This would allow for all opponents of statehood – whether they support independence, continued Commonwealth status, Free Association, or even ‘none of the above’ – to vote ‘No,’ thus defeating the exclusion argument that some have advanced in the past. Furthermore, the results of such a plebiscite would constitute an indisputable expression of the will of the people of Puerto Rico, with their decision being made by those who vote.”
They also wrote to the Department of Justice, asking Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to help certify a plebiscite.
“To date, Puerto Ricans have voted on the question of status on five occasions. On the last two plebiscites – in 2012 and 2017 – those, who voted, overwhelmingly chose statehood with 61% and 97% of the vote respectively. However, all these votes were locally sponsored and not federally-sanctioned, nor were they strict yes-or-no votes on statehood for Puerto Rico. If the duly-constituted government of the territory, established and exercising its delegated local powers under federal law (Pub. L. 82-447), determines to conduct a yes-or-no vote on statehood under Pub. L. 113-76, the legal standard prescribed by Congress for federal recognition of such an act of self-determination is clear. It is the Attorney General’s duty and responsibility to certify that the definition of any option to resolve the status of Puerto Rico on the ballot and related education materials are ‘not incompatible with the Constitution and laws and policies of the United States.’ The statehood option, which Puerto Ricans have already supported twice, unequivocally meets both criteria, as it would resolve the status of Puerto Rico in a way that is compatible with the Constitution, laws and policies of the United States.”
Governor Rossello agreed, saying, “We are ready for a binding process, endorsed by the federal government, that puts an end to more than 100 years of colonial status through a yes/no statehood vote.”
The Department of Justice has not taken action.
A new statehood bill will be filed. The fight for statehood will continue. 32 territories have already become states. nearly all needed multiple bills over a period of years to achieve admission as a state. Puerto Rico has officially requested statehood. Now Congress must take action.
It is only a matter of time. But Puerto Rico has already been a U.S. territory for more than a century. There is no reason to keep waiting. The time for statehood is now.