Thursday, February 12, 2015

Statehood Process Moves Forward

Pierluisi Adds 10 New Cosponsors to H.R. 727, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act
Feb 12, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC—Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi announced today that 10 additional Members of Congress have joined as cosponsors of H.R. 727, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act, a bipartisan bill that would result in Puerto Rico becoming a state on January 1, 2021 once a majority of the electorate in Puerto Rico votes in favor of admission in a federally-sponsored vote.

The bill now has 61 cosponsors—48 Democrats and 13 Republicans. The number of Republican cosponsors for H.R. 727 has surpassed the number of Republican cosponsors for H.R. 2000, Pierluisi’s political status bill in the last Congress, which ultimately obtained 131 total cosponsors.

In a November 2012 referendum in Puerto Rico, sponsored by the local government, voters soundly rejected Puerto Rico’s current territory status and expressed a clear preference for statehood.

H.R. 727 would authorize a vote to be held in Puerto Rico within one year of the bill’s enactment—that is, no later than the end of 2017. The ballot would consist of a single question: “Shall Puerto Rico be admitted as a State of the United States?” In 2014, at Pierluisi’s initiative, and over the objections of the Governor of Puerto Rico and his allies, Congress enacted a $2.5 million appropriation to enable Puerto Rico to conduct the first-federally sponsored vote in its history, so long as certain conditions are met. Under H.R. 727, the admission vote authorized by the bill may be funded with the $2.5 million that Congress approved. This is appropriate because a straightforward vote on admission clearly satisfies the conditions that the federal government established in the appropriations law.

Pursuant to H.R. 727, if a majority of voters affirm their desire for admission, this would trigger a series of steps that would culminate in residents of Puerto Rico voting for President and Vice-President, two U.S. senators, and voting members of the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2020, and Puerto Rico being admitted as a state in January 2021.

“As I have said before, every cosponsor of H.R. 727 is extraordinarily meaningful. Each Member of Congress who cosponsors the bill is declaring, in essence, that he or she will support Puerto Rico’s admission as a state on a relatively fast timeline once a majority of voters in Puerto Rico confirm their desire for statehood in a federally-sponsored vote on admission,” said Pierluisi.

“The Governor of Puerto Rico, through the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and its consultants, is actively lobbying against H.R. 727, using Puerto Rico taxpayer funding to do so. I believe this is both illegal and immoral, given that the bill is intended to fulfill the will of the voters as expressed in the 2012 referendum. Nevertheless, bipartisan support for the bill is growing,” added the Resident Commissioner.

Pierluisi continues to reiterate that, at his initiative, Congress and the President have already provided funding and a framework for the first federally-sponsored vote in Puerto Rico’s history, with the declared goal of resolving the territory’s status. The Resident Commissioner has proposed that the Puerto Rico government use that appropriation to conduct a federally-sponsored vote on Puerto Rico’s admission as a state. For over a year, however, the Governor and the majority party in the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico have failed to take any action, presumably because they fear that a democratic vote will result in another victory for statehood.