House Democrats will call for legislation on Thursday aimed at ending Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory and giving Puerto Rican voters the ability to decide whether the island becomes a US state, an independent country or some other form of non-territorial status.
Democrats prepared the Puerto Rico Status Act in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday night, allowing for debate and a vote on the bill in the full House on Thursday, with just a few days to go. to cede control of the House to the Republicans. The bill is the result of negotiations this year between lawmakers of Puerto Rican descent and others, but the sudden push to take such swift action on a US territory surprised Republicans.
“I have to say, with only a few legislative days left in this Congress, no way forward in the Senate, I’m not sure why this matter warrants an emergency Rules Committee meeting when so many issues remain,” said the rep. Michael Burgess, Republican of Texas, said Wednesday night.
Democrats have presented the bill as an “offer” by Congress to give Puerto Ricans a say in their political status, something needed to ensure the “decolonization” of the island.
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“We have an opportunity here to deal with the colonial legacy, a legacy that should not be part of the government of this nation of ours, and the American citizens of Puerto Rico deserve to have the same democratic principles that we believe in and swear to. the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, said in July.
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The legislation authorizes a federally sponsored plebiscite for the island and gives Puerto Rico the option of independence, statehood and sovereignty in free association with the United States. It would fund voter education efforts in the lead up to the vote and includes details on how Puerto Rico would transition to its new state.
Republicans argued Wednesday night that the bill essentially funds Puerto Rico’s sovereignty or statehood without demanding anything in return, such as paying taxes. They also said the bill only made it through the House Natural Resources Committee and that several other committees should weigh in on something as important as a revised political status.
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The House’s passage of the bill today will send it to the Senate, but as Republicans point out, it’s unclear if there is time or support for the bill there. Democrats would need to find at least 10 Republican votes to pass it at a time when Congress is focused on avoiding a partial government shutdown and funding it before the Christmas holidays.