(House of Representatives - April 17, 2013)

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[Pages H2070-H2071]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           PATH TO STATEHOOD

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Puerto Rico (Mr. Pierluisi) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. PIERLUISI. Mr. Speaker, in November 2012, Puerto Rico held a 
referendum on its political status. The results demonstrated that a 
clear majority of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico want to end the 
island's current territory status, that a supermajority prefers 
statehood among the possible alternatives, and that--for the first time 
in history--more voters favor statehood than the current status.
  As I have remarked before, not a single one of my stateside 
colleagues in Congress would accept territory status for their own 
constituents. So they must recognize and respect that the American 
citizens of Puerto Rico no longer accept it either. I also trust that 
my colleagues who represent States will credit my constituents for 
aspiring to have the same rights and responsibilities as their 
  Last week, the President took an important step. As part of the 
proposed budget the administration submitted to Congress, the Justice 
Department is seeking $2.5 million to conduct the first Federally 
sponsored vote on Puerto Rico's political status in the 115 years that 
the territory has been under the U.S. flag. The funding would be 
granted to Puerto Rico's Elections Commission to conduct objective 
voter education and a vote on ``options that would resolve Puerto 
Rico's future political status.''
  Key congressional leaders in the House and the Senate, Republican and 
Democrat alike, have already issued statements of support for the 
President's action, calling it an appropriate response to the local 
  Mr. Speaker, my constituents may not have a vote in the government 
that makes their national laws, but they do have a voice--and they made 
that voice heard loud and clear in November. A budget reflects one's 
priorities and values. I support the President's budget because it 
shows respect for the democratically expressed aspirations of the U.S. 
citizens who reside in Puerto Rico. And it demonstrates a clear desire 

[[Page H2071]]

move forward on this complex but critical issue.
  As the budget request states, the Federally sponsored vote is to be 
among options that would resolve Puerto Rico's political status. The 
only way to resolve the island's status is through statehood or 
national sovereignty. Puerto Rico cannot resolve its status by 
maintaining the same undemocratic status that my people have endured 
since 1898 and that they soundly rejected in November. The current 
status is the root cause of Puerto Rico's political, economic, and 
social problems, so it cannot also be the solution to those problems.
  In addition, the budget language clearly states that the Department 
of Justice shall not provide funding until it certifies that the ballot 
and voter education materials are consistent with the Constitution, 
basic laws, and policies of the United States. The purpose of this 
language is to ensure that the ballot does not include impossible 
status proposals that have been repeatedly declared unworkable as a 
matter of both law and policy by the Federal Government. I am pleased 
that the administration understands that true self-determination is a 
choice among options that can be implemented, not an exercise in 
wishful thinking.
  The President's request represents one path forward, but it is 
important to underscore that it is not the only path forward. In the 
coming weeks, I will introduce stand-alone legislation on the status 
issue that will both complement President Obama's request and reflect 
the undisputable fact that statehood won the November referendum.
  Puerto Rico stands in a far different place today than it did six 
months ago. A historic referendum was held, the President responded to 
the results, and Congress now has a responsibility to act. Those who 
seek democracy, equality, and progress for Puerto Rico are on the 
forward march, while those who support the failed status quo are in 
retreat. We drive the debate, while they merely react to the debate. 
And, in the end, mindful that the arc of history is long but that it 
bends towards justice, I am confident we will prevail.