Earlier this year, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva held two hearings on H.R. 1522, The Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act. He said that he intends to hold a mark-up session now that he has gotten a memorandum from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on whether H.R. 1522 and a competing bill, H.R. 2070, present any conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.
Constitutional Problems with H.R. 2070
The DOJ said that H.R. 2070 raises several conflicts with the Constitution:
- It opens the possibility of considering “enhanced commonwealth” options which have already been declared unconstitutional by every branch of the federal government.
- It lays an unprecedented change in the rules for Congress and declares that Congress must vote to ratify the choice made by the people of Puerto Rico, making a promise to voters that simply cannot be kept.
- It sets a spending cap on political campaigns.
- It calls for a congressional committee to make recommendations on language and culture to Puerto Rico.
The purpose of H.R. 2070 is to delay the admission of Puerto Rico as a state. It presents a multi-year process which ignores the 2020 vote for statehood, as well as the 2012 and 2017 votes. It does not have the support of Puerto Rico’s top elected representatives. It also has so many complex and quirky requirements that it cannot be passed as-is.
H.R. 1522 – An Effective Solution
However, H.R. 1522 offers none of these conflicts. It uses the same process Hawaii and Alaska used to become states in 1959 by presenting Puerto Rico with a formal offer of statehood and allowing voters to make the final decision. If a majority votes for statehood again then the option gets implemented after a brief transition period. The bill has been vetted by multiple constitutional scholars and there are no constitutional issues with H.R. 1522.
The Committee can choose to mark up both bills back-to-back, or there may be a compromise bill. What is unacceptable is for the Committee to do nothing, and skirt its responsibility to address the fundamental issue impacting the lives and futures of millions of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.
Why are we waiting?
Congress clearly has a lot going on. However, mark up of H.R. 1522 doesn’t need to wait.
The Blog for Arizona says “Rep. Grijalva Should Mark Up The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act,” and we agree.
They quoted an article by Matt Helder and Jose Cabrera saying, “Denial of the popular will is exactly what some members of Congress seem intent on doing when it comes to listening to Puerto Rican voters. Unlike the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, sponsored by a wide bipartisan coalition of lawmakers – including the lone representative from Puerto Rico – the Puerto Rico Self Determination Act has been introduced by members of Congress that, between all of them combined, received zero votes from residents of Puerto Rico.”
The Blog for Arizona went on to say, “The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act is the traditional means to statehood. If it was good enough for Alaska and Hawaii, it should be good enough for Puerto Rico. ‘Self-determination’ means that the people of Puerto Rico decide (and they already have).”
Don’t Hesitate, Chairman Grijalva – Markup H.R. 1522 Now!
Chairman Grijalva should go ahead and mark up H.R. 1522 Committee on Natural Resources this month.