Senator Joe Manchin, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has called for a public hearing on Puerto Rico’s status “as soon as possible.” Many people, including members of Congress as well as Puerto Rico’s elected leaders, have called for a public hearing on the subject before now. But Manchin is the one who can schedule a hearing in the committee, and the Natural Resources Committee is in charge of Puerto Rico in Congress. His decision to hold a hearing means that it will probably happen.

When will the hearing take place?

Manchin told El Nuevo Dia that he will hold the hearing “as soon as possible,” and certainly before the end of the current Congress’s session, which ends in December. We’re trying to help,” Manchin said. He mentioned that he had had “a good meeting” with the Governor of Puerto Rico. The idea of the hearing came up at that meeting, where Governor Pierluisi pointed out that it has been 11 years since the Senate last held a public hearing on this subject.

Manchin made a statement at the 2013 hearing, saying, “If another referendum is called in the Commonwealth, the people of Puerto Rico should be presented with clear and unambiguous options for such a significant decision, so as to match our shared democratic principles.”

Senator Martin Heinrich has called for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, too. The Senate is currently considering a companion bill to the Puerto Rico Status Act being considered by the House. Puerto Rico has no senators, but the Resident Commissioner, Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, has asked for a hearing in the Senate as well.

Previous hearings

There have been many public hearings on the question of Puerto Rico’s political status. Some statements from past hearings:

  • 1997: “We feel, therefore, that Puerto Rico is ripe to become a state after almost a hun-dred years of successful democratic apprenticeship and to assume its full political rights and responsibilities. During all this Century, more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have served with distinction in all the wars that United States has been involved with more than 6,000 casualties and in several cases with higher casualties than some states. More than 2,000 Puerto Ricans soldiers served in the Gulf War, amongst whom was a grandson of mine in the 1st Armored Division. Four, such as Fernando Luis Garcıa, who gave their lives, heroically, in the line of duty, have been decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor…  The real test for Puerto Rican statehood should be how much we share common values with fellow citizens of the 50 states, and how much Puerto Ricans believe in, honor, and defend the Constitution of the United States. A look at the myriad ways Puerto Ricans have served the United States over the last 99 years is enough to pass the test.” — Luis Ferre
  • 2013: “I view the struggle for statehood as a fight for civil and political rights, economic progress, and a better standard of living for the people I represent. The fact that this aspiration is not universally shared in Puerto Rico does not diminish the nobility of the aspiration itself… Federal law is supreme in Puerto Rico, yet I can only watch as my House colleagues cast floor votes on bills that affect, for better or for worse, every aspect of life on the island. I must rely on the goodwill of senators like you. But you were elected to protect the interests of your constituents, not mine—so, understandably, our needs are not always your highest priority. I must request assistance from a president who is not obliged to seek or earn our vote. To expect the administration to feel the same urgency to produce positive results for Puerto Rico as it does for the states is to substitute hope for experience… Puerto Rico withdrew its consent to territory status and expressed a preference for statehood. Congress must respect—and provide a constructive response to—the democratically expressed aspirations of its citizens.” — Pedro Pierluisi
  • 2021: “Under the U.S. Constitution, new states to the union are admitted on “equal footing” with existing states. The “equal footing” doctrine makes it clear that when Puerto Rico becomes a state, full constitutional rights will apply to its residents, including constitutional U.S. citizenship and the Bill of Rights. As a U.S. territory, the Bill of Rights does not fully apply in Puerto Rico, and a 1917 statute, not the U.S. Constitution, grants U.S. citizenship. Statehood is a responsible ballot option because there are no variations on its definition. Each of the 50 current states is treated equally under federal law. The meaning of ‘state’ is well established and consistent; there is a sense of certainty in the definition.” — Jose Puentes

The Puerto Rico Status Act passed the House in 2022, too late in the session of Congress to be considered in the Senate. The representatives who voted against it expressed concern that there had not been enough public hearings.

This year, there are Puerto Rico Status Act bills already under consideration in both the House and Senate. There is time for both houses to hold the public hearings that will make Members of Congress feel confident about voting again on these important bills. We urge Congress to hold those hearings — and we urge you to remind your representatives that their support is needed.



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