As we move toward the new year, there are two Puerto Rico status bills being considered in the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The first is HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill. This bill acknowledges the vote in November 2020, when 53% of Puerto Rico voters said “Yes” to statehood. Votes in 2012 and 20917 also showed a majority favoring statehood for Puerto Rico. HR 1522 respects these democratic acts of self-determination.
HR 1522 calls for Congress to acknowledge Puerto Rico’s demand for statehood, and to offer admission to Puerto Rico. Having received this assurance from Congress, Puerto Rico will hold a final ratification vote to confirm that the voters want statehood. If they vote in favor of statehood again, Puerto Rico will be admitted as the 51st state of the Union.
HR 2070 calls for a constitutional convention at which a group of elected representatives will work with a congressional commission to come up with a slate of possible status options for Puerto Rico. While the Department of Justice has clearly stated that the only viable options are territory, state, or independent nation with or without a compact of free association, HR 2070 wants to offer more options.
Each status option must be represented by a delegate, which adds a layer of complexity. How could a straightforward vote for delegates to choose options result in at least one delegate for each of the options yet to be chosen? This is just one small example of the problems with HR 2070.
At present, there are calls for a consensus bill which could get agreement from all the members of Congress, or at least from enough of the members to ensure passage in the House. Various members of the House have met to discuss possibilities for a consensus bill, but there is as yet no hint of what such a bill would contain.