UPDATE ON PUERTO RICO'S POLITICAL STATUS; Congressional Record Vol. 159, No. 107
(House of Representatives - July 24, 2013)

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[Pages H4987-H4988]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                UPDATE ON PUERTO RICO'S POLITICAL STATUS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Puerto Rico (Mr. Pierluisi) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. PIERLUISI. Mr. Speaker, as we approach the birthday of the late 
Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa, the father of the statehood movement in Puerto 
Rico, I rise to update my colleagues on the progress that has been made 
to resolve the territory's political status.
  Last November, Puerto Rico held a referendum. As I described in a 
floor speech the following week, the results show that a majority of 
the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico do not support the current territory 
status, a supermajority favor statehood among the three alternative 
options, and more voters want statehood than any other option, 
including the current status. These results are now part of the 
historical record, and they cannot be dismissed or diminished by those 
who find them inconvenient.
  Now that American citizens living in an American territory have 
informed their national government, in a free and fair vote, that they 
do not consent to a political status that deprives them of the most 
basic democratic rights, it is incumbent upon the Federal Government to 
take appropriate action in response. For the President and Congress to 
do otherwise would be to contravene the principles that have made this 
country a light to the world.
  Today, I can report that positive steps have been taken. In April, 
the administration requested an appropriation of $2.5 million, which 
would be provided to the Puerto Rico Elections Commission to conduct 
the first federally-funded status vote in the territory's history, with 
the specific purpose of resolving this issue. The administration's 
action was favorably received by Members of Congress from both sides of 
the aisle, who rarely find common ground. Earlier this month, thanks to 
the leadership of Congressmen Wolf, Fattah, and Serrano, that funding 
was approved by the Appropriations Committee, confirming that the 
effort to secure fair treatment for Puerto Rico is not, and should 
never become, a partisan issue.
  The committee's report endorses the conditions proposed by the 
administration stating that Federal funding will not be obligated until 
DOJ has certified that the ballot and voter education materials are 
compatible with U.S. laws and policies, thereby ensuring that the vote 
will deal with one or more status options that can actually be 
implemented and that would settle the issue.
  I will continue to fight for the approval of this appropriation by 
the full

[[Page H4988]]

House and for its retention in any conference negotiation with the 
Senate.
  There is additional progress to report on another front in this 
struggle. In May, I introduced stand-alone legislation that proceeds 
from the indisputable premise that statehood obtained more votes than 
any other option in the November referendum. The bill outlines the 
rights and responsibilities of statehood and asks voters in Puerto Rico 
whether they accept those terms.

                              {time}  1100

  If a majority says ``yes,'' the bill provides for the President to 
submit legislation to admit Puerto Rico as a State after a transition 
period.
  Two months after its introduction, this bill already enjoys support 
from 100 Members of Congress from both parties and from every region of 
this country despite the predictable opposition of the status quo party 
in Puerto Rico and its allies in Congress. I always find it ironic when 
some of my colleagues from the States, who, along with their 
constituents, enjoy all the benefits of statehood, seek to prevent my 
constituents from exercising those same rights and responsibilities. I 
have concluded that these forces cannot be reasoned with. They must 
simply be defeated, and they will be.
  Next week, I will appear as a witness at a Senate hearing on the 
November referendum and the Federal response to that vote. Just as I 
told a United Nations committee last month, I will testify that I have 
faith that the Federal Government will fulfill its obligation to 
facilitate Puerto Rico's transition to a democratic and dignified 
status but that deeds, not words, are required.
  Much work remains to be done, and like any civil rights struggle, it 
will not be easy; but through our sound and steady action, we are 
closer than ever to finally realizing Dr. Barbosa's dream of equality 
for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico.

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