The House of Representatives is structured with committees. One of those committees is the House Natural Resources Committee. This committee is in charge of a lot of different things, including wildlife and fisheries, federal lands, Native Americans, and Insular Affairs. “Insular” means “about islands,” and the islands in question include Puerto Rico. So the House Committee on Natural Resources is responsible for Puerto Rico.

Last year, this committee struggled hard to negotiate and pass HR 8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act. Rep. Raul Grijalva was the chair of the committee, and he was devoted to solving Puerto Rico’s status dilemma. The new chair, Rep. Bruce Westerman, has just published his list of priorities for the committee. Puerto Rico is listed.

Priorities for Puerto Rico

Here’s what the list of priorities says about Puerto Rico:

“Health and Economic Well Being of the Territories – The Committee will conduct oversight of the programs that support the U.S. Insular Territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Such programs are intended to increase the health, wellbeing, and economic activity of the territories. The Committee will examine the programs’ efficacy and efficiency for residents and citizens of the territories and for U.S. taxpayers.

Puerto Rico – The Committee will continue to conduct oversight over the implementation of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), and the ongoing debt restructuring efforts. In addition, the Committee will review actions conducted by the Financial Oversight Board established under the Act.”

The political status of Puerto Rico is not on the agenda.

There is a sentence earlier in the document that says that “The Committee will review the fundamental issues facing each of the territories and freely associated states such as, support and development of self-government and self-determination…” This could be understood to include Puerto Rico’s political status.

Priorities for Puerto Rico

Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, has stated that she plans to reintroduce a Puerto Rico Status Act soon. She has promised that the committee will hold hearings on the bill.

Gonzalez-Colon is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.



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