House Natural Resources Committee Press Release
Committee Advances Legislation to Guide Puerto Rico's Future Political Status
October 23, 2007
Washington, D.C. - For the first time in nearly 10 years, the House Natural Resources Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), today voted in favor of legislation to provide for a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the citizens of Puerto Rico.
"When I became chairman of the Committee earlier this year, I issued an Agenda of American Values to guide the work we would undertake - one part of that agenda stated, in reference to the territorial possessions of the United States, that we must recognize there is an inherent right of political self-determination," Rahall said. "I strongly believe that the time is now to provide a clear direction in determining the future political status of Puerto Rico."
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007 (H.R. 900) - introduced in February 2007 by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and supported by 129 Members of Congress - will enact some of the recommendations set forth in the Report by the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status, which was issued in 2005.
The legislation passed out of Committee today by a voice vote makes several changes to H.R. 900 as originally introduced. A substitute amendment, offered by Chairman Rahall, removed elements of the original bill and replaced them with a provision calling for a single plebiscite to determine if the people of Puerto Rico want to retain their current territorial status (status quo) or change to a status that is constitutionally viable, permanent, and non-territorial.
An amendment by Insular Affairs Subcommittee Chairwoman Donna Christensen (D-VI) would direct the Congress to recognize the authority of Puerto Rico, in the event that citizens voted in favor of a change in territorial status during the original mandated plebiscite, to convene a constitutional convention or an additional plebiscite for the purpose of proposing a self-determination option. Christensen's amendment removed any future role of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.
Christensen said, "I am pleased that Chairman Rahall and the author of H.R. 900 were open to accepting my amendment recognizing the authority of Puerto Rico to either convene a constitutional convention or hold a subsequent plebiscite to determine the people's choice for Puerto Rico's future political status and relationship with the United States. The Rahall substitute, with my amendment, is a good faith joint effort to bring the differing approaches together in a way that allows us to move forward."
"The United States is the greatest democracy in the world - a superpower. Yet, at the same time, the Congress of the United States has never extended to the citizens of Puerto Rico a Congressionally sanctioned process for them to reassess their political status. As such, the Committee met today to consider legislation of great import to the citizens of Puerto Rico - a proposition to see if Puerto Ricans are satisfied with the status quo in terms of their political status, or not," Rahall said.
We will have a full analysis on this very shortly.