Puerto Rico Statehood Bill To Be Voted On By The House Of Representatives

0
305

Puerto Ricans could move closer to a vote on whether the island should become a U.S. state when the House of Representatives votes Thursday on a bill outlining the process.

A House committee approved the Puerto Rico Status Act Wednesday, paving the way for the full House vote. Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York, cosponsored the bill.

The legislation lays out terms of a plebiscite – a non-legally binding referendum – and three potential self-governing statuses: independence, full U.S. statehood, or sovereignty with free association within the United States. The latter is in place in Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.

A House committee approved the Puerto Rico Status Act Wednesday, paving the way for the full House vote. Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York, cosponsored the bill.

The legislation lays out terms of a plebiscite – a non-legally binding referendum – and three potential self-governing statuses: independence, full U.S. statehood, or sovereignty with free association within the United States. The latter is in place in Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.

Puerto Rico, which has a 3.3 million population and high rates of poverty, became a U.S. territory in 1898. Activists have campaigned for greater self-determination, including statehood, for decades.

There have been six referendums on the topic since the 1960s, but they were non-binding. Only Congress can grant statehood.

‘After 124 years of colonialism, Puerto Ricans deserve a fair, transparent, and democratic process to solve the status question finally,’ Velazquez said on Twitter.

The Caribbean island’s citizens are Americans but do not have voting representation in Congress.

They cannot vote in presidential elections, do not pay federal income tax on income earned on the island, and do not have the same eligibility for some federal programs as other U.S. citizens.

If the bill passes the House, it will need 60 votes in the closely divided Senate and President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.

The legislation has the support of lawmakers of both parties and Puerto Rican officials.

But time is running out as lawmakers have a full agenda before vacation at the end of next week. A new Congress with a Republican-controlled House will be sworn in on January 3, at which point any legislative process would have to start over.

It is unlikely the bill will make it through the House and the Senate within that time.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, also led the bill.

‘This historic legislation will grant Puerto Ricans the self-determination they deserve and allow them to determine the future of their island themselves,’ he said.

The bill seemed poised to pass through the House over the summer. Still, it became bogged down as representatives argued over whether granting statehood would neuter the island’s culture and force it to abandon its predominant use of Spanish in favor of English.