The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold another hearing on the two Puerto Rico status ills currently under consideration: HR 1522, The Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill and HR 2070, a competing bill introduced by Nydia Velazquez.
An initial hearing on the two bills was held in April. Several legal scholars stated during that hearing that HR 2070 is unconstitutional. Chair Raul Grijalva postponed a planned second day of discussion while waiting for the Department of Justice to make a determination on this question.
What status options should be considered?
There are a number of constitutional issues involved in HR 2070, but one of the most contentious issues has to do with the vile status options for Puerto Rico.
HR 2070 calls for elected representatives to form a standing committee which would work with a committee from Congress to brainstorm non-territorial options for Puerto Rico’s political status.
All three branches of the federal government have spoken out on this question many times.
- Puerto Rico can remain a territory.
- Puerto Rico can become a state.
- It can become an independent nation, with or without a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
There are no other viable status options for Puerto Rico under the U.S. Constitution.
It also requires slightly different options to have their own places on the ballot. So a proposal for statehood following the procedure used by Alaska and Hawaii could compete with a proposal for statehood without a ratifying vote. Each option would have to have at least one champion on the standing committee, and meetings with the congressional committee would require that at least one representative of each option be present. Thus, a clearly unconstitutional choice like a Compact of Free Association guaranteeing that the Unites States could not make any changes without permission from Puerto Rico would be represented and included in the process just as statehood and independence would.
The Justice Department has completed its report and the second hearing is scheduled for 1:00 pm Eastern time on Wednesday June 16th.
The day before the hearing, a demonstration will be held at the capitol. The Respect Puerto Rico Statehood Vote gathering will demand that Congress respect the vote in the referendum held in November. That vote, democratically held and called by he democratically elected leaders of Puerto Rico’s government, had a clear result: statehood won.
Congress is honor-bound to respect that vote and take action to admit Puerto Rico as a state.