Why the Puerto Rico Democracy Act
(Serrano-Fortuno-Rahall-Don Young-Hoyer-Blunt, et. al.,
H.R. 900 instead of H.R. 1230)
- H.R. 1230 would effectively authorize Puerto Rico’s choice for its future status to be an impossible proposal rejected by a Task Force of senior appointees of President Bush, the Clinton Administration, and all Members of Congress who have commented on it. The bill would authorize Puerto Rico to choose among statehood, independence, and a “new …Commonwealth status”. The bill was requested by Gov. Acevedo of Puerto Rico, who has proposed that “commonwealth” status empower Puerto Rico to nullify most federal laws and court jurisdiction and enter into foreign trade, tax, and other agreements and organizations States cannot. Under his “commonwealth” covenant, the U.S. would be permanently bound to Puerto Rico and obligated to grant an additional subsidy to the insular government and replace repealed incentives for corporate reinvestment from the States as well as to continue to grant all current aid to Puerto Ricans, free entry to all goods shipped from Puerto Rico, and citizenship. This proposal and similar proposals in the past have confused the choice in the territory and prevented Puerto Ricans from choosing their status preference.
For Congress to invite a status proposal that defies the basic concepts of nationhood, is an incompatible combination of aspects of different statuses, and conflicts with the Constitution and basic laws and policies of the U.S. would: unrealistically raise Puerto Rican expectations; make it awkward for the Congress to later reject the proposal; lead to discord between Puerto Ricans and the U.S.; and delay resolution of Puerto Rico’s fundamental issue. Changing Puerto Rico’s status requires changing federal laws. For a choice to be meaningful and fair, a Puerto Ricans have to choose their status proposal from among real statuses.
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act would provide for a choice among all the real options — options that President Bush’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, the Clinton Administration, the House, and the Senate committee of jurisdiction have all said are legitimate and can be implemented: continued territory status, independence, nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation can end, and statehood. The latter are the three statuses recognized by the U.N. as the decolonizing options for a territory).
- Approximately two-thirds of the members of each house of Puerto Rico’s legislature have already rejected H.R. 1230’s proposed convention.
Puerto Rico’s legislature supports H.R. 900. It is favored by leaders of a majority of Puerto Ricans, leaders of the statehood and independence parties and the “free association” faction of the “commonwealth” party.
- H.R. 1230 is not intended to enable Puerto Ricans to choose one of the territory’s recognized status options. The House, the Senate committee, and President Clinton have said that free association (a close association between nations that either can end) is an option for Puerto Rico, and President Bush’s Task Force said that it is a potential option. Along with independence and statehood, free association is one of the three options recognized by international law as decolonizing options for a territory. The U.S. has three free association relationships with former territories. There are a number of Puerto Ricans who want free association — including a growing faction within Gov. Acevedo’s party.
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act includes free association as an option.
4. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act has bipartisan leadership and far more Member support.
The bill is sponsored by Committee (Resources) Chairman Rahall and Ranking Republican Don Young, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Republican Whip Blunt as well as by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Fortuno and 91 other Members.
H.R. 1230 has no leadership support and is only sponsored by 26 Members.