Full Committee Considers Puerto Rico Status Legislation
Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Democrats held a markup on five bills, including H.R. 8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act. Committee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) issued the following statement in response:
"As with most of the bills we've considered this Congress, my Democrat colleagues have seen an issue and taken the wrong approach in an attempt to address it. Today's vote on Puerto Rico’s political status is no exception. Chair Grijalva introduced the bill moments before noticing the markup, giving us no opportunity to consider it during a hearing and engage with experts to fully understand the legislation and its consequences. The bill has significant ramifications across a variety of congressional committees - on immigration, taxation, elections, and more - yet Democrats are rushing the bill through this committee only. The legislation also fails to take into account the fact that Puerto Rico is still in the process of restructuring its multi-billion dollar debt, and bypassing all regular order to rush the island toward a different political status creates a dangerous procedural precedent. I have consistently said that I stand ready to work with the people of Puerto Rico to address questions regarding the island’s political status. Ms. Gonzalez-Colon has been a tireless advocate for her constituents on this issue, and it's unfortunate that committee Democrats have steamrolled the entire legislative process in their attempt to score political points."
The Amendment in Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 8393 would authorize a federally sponsored plebiscite to occur on Nov. 5, 2023, for the voters of Puerto Rico to choose from three status options: independence, sovereignty in free association, and statehood. Titles I through III of the bill establish the processes by which transition in status could occur.
While the Committee on Natural Resources may have held hearings on two other Puerto Rico status bills during the 117th Congress, H.R. 8393 is an entirely new legislative proposal that has not had a legislative hearing. The final text of the bill was only introduced on the morning of July 15, 2022. The committee has not considered many of the provisions and effects of the legislation, including whether the provisions that may bind a future foreign government are valid or enforceable, the costs of the bill, how the legislation will impact U.S. national security, influences on U.S. elections, questions surrounding federal funds being transferred to a new foreign nation, and what effect this may have on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, to name a few.
The committee also advanced bills by unanimous consent, including:
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