U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi has introduced a Puerto Rico status bill in the senate. This follows HR 8393, The Puerto Rico Status Act, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Raul Grijalva. Wicker’s bill also is called The Puerto Rico Status Act.
The bill claims that
“the permissible status options for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico include—
(iii) free association; and
(iv) commonwealth status; and
‘‘removing the Commonwealth option would raise real questions about the vote’s legitimacy’’.
It therefore includes the option of continuing as an unincorporated territory among the choices on the ballot for another plebiscite to be held in Puerto Rico.
The bill defines “commonwealth” as follows:
“A vote for Commonwealth–Estado Libre Asociado shall be a reaffirmation of the will of the people of Puerto Rico to retain their Commonwealth–Estado Libre Asociado status.
‘‘(B) To enable the development of Commonwealth-Estado Libre Asociado status, there shall be created a United States–Puerto Rico Negotiating Commission that will examine and propose enhancements to the current status, including the potential substitution of the Act of July 3, 1950 (commonly known as the ‘Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950’) (64 Stat. 319, chapter 446) for a formal compact.’’.
The idea of an “enhanced commonwealth” has been repeatedly rejected by all three branches of the federal government.
Rep. Tom McClintock of California attempted an amendment to the House Puerto Rico Status Act which would include unincorporated territory status and “none of the above.”
Grijalva responded by saying that this amendment would imply that there was “a mysterious non-territorial option” other than statehood, independence and free association.
The idea of the “enhanced commonwealth” has been posited for many years. The commonwealth party claims that they cannot define this option because it will emerge during negotiations with the U.S. government. The U.S. government has been very clear that this is not a real possibility.
If HR 8393 passes the House, there will have to be a companion bill passed in the Senate. The two bills must be harmonize to create a final bill which will go to the president for signature.
Wicker’s Senate bill could be a starting point for a real binding referendum bill in the Senate.