Leader Hoyer, Bipartisan Group of Members of Congress Announce Consensus Bill on Puerto Rico Political Status, Launch Public Input Phase of Historic Collaborative Effort

Washington, D.C.At a press conference today, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Small Business Committee Chair Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro R. Pierluisi announced consensus among key members of Congress on a Discussion Draft of the Puerto Rico Status Act, which lays out a process for the people of Puerto Rico to determine the future of their political status.

The recorded livestream of the May 19 press conference on the Puerto Rico Status Act is available here. Photos of the press conference are available here.

The Puerto Rico Status Act Discussion Draft is the product of a collaborative effort spanning several months between the sponsors of the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (H.R. 1522) introduced by Rep. Soto and the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act (H.R. 2070) introduced by Rep. Velázquez. 

Full text of the Puerto Rico Status Act Discussion Draft is available here: https://bit.ly/39Exq4A

A fact sheet on the Puerto Rico Status Act Discussion Draft is available here: https://bit.ly/39wwtvj

Following release of the Discussion Draft, the Committee is launching an innovative online feedback process using a submission tool called POPVOX to allow any member of the public to review the Discussion Draft text and provide input. Anyone interested in reviewing and commenting on the Puerto Rico Status Act should visit: https://naturalresources.house.gov/puerto-rico-political-status

Key features of the Puerto Rico Status Act Discussion Draft include: 

  • Authorizes a federally sponsored plebiscite to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status. 
  • Specifies and defines Puerto Rico’s non-territorial status options: Independence, Sovereignty in Free Association with the United States, and Statehood.
  • Provides for an objective, nonpartisan, federally funded voter education campaign leading up to the vote. 
  • Establishes a process and timeline for the U.S. Department of Justice to review the plebiscite voter education materials and plebiscite ballot design.  
  • Authorizes necessary funds to carry out an initial plebiscite and, if necessary, a runoff plebiscite. 
  • Describes the transition to and implementation of each status option in sufficient detail for eligible voters in Puerto Rico to make an informed choice about Puerto Rico’s future political status. 
  • Ensures the result of the plebiscite is binding, and implements the option that is chosen by a majority of eligible voters in Puerto Rico. 

“This draft legislation represents a consensus among Members to find a path forward for the people of Puerto Rico to choose their own future. I believe in self-determination for the people in Puerto Rico, and all people. These decisions are not up to me, or to Congress, or other elected officials in Washington -- and our agreement will allow our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico to determine their own future.  I’m proud to have worked closely with so many who care deeply about Puerto Rico and ensuring that its people can pursue the status of their choosing, and I appreciate all the hard work put in by Chairman Grijalva, Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon, Chairwoman Velazquez, Rep. Soto, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and Gov. Pierluisi.  I also want to thank Rep. Ritchie Torres, who was unable to attend our press conference today, for continuing to be engaged on this issue and for being a strong advocate for the people of Puerto Rico. I look forward to working with them to move this process forward toward eventual consideration of the Puerto Rico Status Act by the House as soon as final legislation is ready,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

“The people of Puerto Rico have weighed in on their political future numerous times with no resolution or action from Congress. Addressing Puerto Rico’s political status is one of my top priorities as Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and I am proud that we now have an agreement with the potential to pass the House. But to be clear, no vote on the House floor should occur before receiving input from the people of Puerto Rico, so that is the process we are embarking on now. I take Puerto Rico’s decolonization very seriously, and I will continue to push for this goal until it is realized,” said Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

“After decades of gridlock, we have come to recognize that there will be no decolonization for Puerto Rico so long as we fail to find common ground. Doing right by Puerto Rico requires that the crossfire comes to an end. And that is precisely what we have done. After continued discussions with Leader Hoyer, Chairman Grijalva, Representatives Soto, Ocasio-Cortez, and González-Colón, with whom I held several one-on-one meetings, sometimes hours long, we found common ground. We are sharing the Discussion Draft today to get input from the people of Puerto Rico – elected government officials, groups, and organizations, and the public – before conducting a markup or moving legislation to the House floor,” said Committee on Small Business Chair Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

“The people of Puerto Rico have voted for Statehood on multiple occasions and Congress has never expressed itself to resolve the status. This is the first time that we have a binding plebiscite with only non-territorial options: Statehood, Independence and Sovereignty in Free Association with the United States and in this way honors the mandate of the people in favor of statehood, providing a mechanism to achieve it,” said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico).

“Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico will finally have the opportunity to make a federally binding choice on their future. They deserve the chance to have their voices heard, have a clear path to vote for statehood or other options, and mark an end to their second-class citizenship. We aim to continue this discussion and look forward to hearing from those on the island in the near future,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

"It is truly historic in having a process of self-determination and decolonization of the island and that we're really talking about ending the colonial status. Puerto Ricans will be able to choose from three set statuses that are that are actually quite defined. The first is statehood. The second is an actual a truly free associated state in treaty with the United States. And then the third is full independence with no treaty with the United States,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

“Today, thanks in large part to the leadership of our loyal ally and friend of Puerto Rico, the Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, we have a compromise status bill, that seeks to put an end to the century-old status problem in Puerto Rico.  With all non-territorial options on the table, Independence, Free Association, and Statehood, Puerto Ricans will be able to choose their permanent political future. I am sure that my fellow Puerto Ricans will again choose statehood, they will choose the equality that is enjoyed here “from sea to shining sea,” said Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro R. Pierluisi.

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