The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on “Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009” within the next few weeks, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said Tuesday, adding he is confident the House will pass his proposed status legislation.
“This bill, H.R. 2499, has over 180 bipartisan co-sponsors and was approved overwhelmingly by the Committee on Natural Resources. Although the wheels of democracy in Washington do not always turn as fast as one would like, I am confident that the bill will be approved by the House in the coming weeks, whereupon our cause will be taken up in the Senate,” Pierluisi said during a speech before the San Juan Rotary Club.
“The simple reality is that the well-being of our people depends on the kindness of national leaders who are not answerable to island residents at the ballot box. And kindness, especially when divorced from political interest, is not always forthcoming,” Pierluisi said after detailing his and Gov. Fortuño’s travails in getting Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories included in President Obama’s health reform.
“As the health care reform debate made clear, this lack of meaningful participation results in Puerto Rico being treated unequally under federal laws and programs,” Pierluisi said.
The resident commissioner’s proposed legislation submitted in May 2009 calls for two status referendums on the island:
In the first plebiscite, the people of Puerto Rico would vote whether or not they want to continue under the current political status. If they should vote for the current Commonwealth, the proposed legislation authorizes the government to hold a similar plebiscite on the matter every eight years.
If the majority of voters should vote for a status change, a second referendum would be held in which islanders would vote for their status preference of choice amongst the following three options: Independence; Sovereignty in Association with the United States — Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution; and Statehood.
The Popular Democratic Party has said that Pierluisi’s status proposal is unfairly skewed because it does not allow people to vote for the island’s current Commonwealth amongst the final status options for Puerto Rico.
“I support statehood because I believe the people of Puerto Rico have earned the right, should they choose to exercise it, to become full and equal citizens of the United States,” said Pierluisi, adding, “Those who support the current status, independence or free association are as entitled to their views as I am to mine. I respect their right to advocate for the particular status option they prefer.”
“What I do not respect are efforts by individuals or groups to obstruct the self-determination process because they fear that the process will reveal the public’s support for a status option other than the one they favor. For the sake of the people of Puerto Rico, four million proud and strong, these anti-democratic forces must not be allowed to prevail. They must be defeated,” he said.