US House Floats Draft Bill to ‘De-Colonize’ Puerto Rico

US House Floats Draft Bill to ‘De-Colonize’ Puerto Rico

  • The Puerto Rico Status Act would trigger a binding referendum
  • The legislation would face Republican opposition in US Senate
The Old San Juan neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Old San Juan neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico.Photographer: Xavier Garcia/Bloomberg


Jim WyssMay 19, 2022, 2:07 PM ASTUpdated on

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House lawmakers are working on legislation that, if passed, would trigger a binding referendum on Puerto Rico’s political status.

Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer Thursday said he’ll introduce the “Puerto Rico Status Act,” a compromise measure that would allow the US commonwealth of 3.2 million people to determine its fate. 

The proposal would require Puerto Ricans to choose from three options: independence, statehood, or sovereignty in free association with the US. Crucially, it would also require Congress to act on the referendum. It faces little chance of passing in the divided US Senate because of Republican opposition.

“The Puerto Rican people do not want to be a colony, and the United States of America does not want to be a colonialist power,” Hoyer said at a press conference in Washington. “This legislation seeks to address that issue.”

Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he would start circulating the draft for comment. Last year, two competing status bills were introduced, sapping momentum from both, he said. 

Read More: Rival Puerto Rico Bills Dim Democratic Hopes of a 51st State (1)

The effort comes as some Democrats see statehood for Puerto Rico as a way to solidify control of Congress. Puerto Rico leans Democratic, and if it were a state it would be eligible for two Senate seats and five House seats.

The legislation would need at least 10 Republican votes to pass in the 50-50 Senate as long as the filibuster rule is in place. Two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have vowed not to waive the 60-vote requirement for legislation, blocking that possibility.

There have been several attempts to clarify Puerto Rico’s status, including three nonbinding referendums since 2012. In 2020, 53% of voters on the island said they favored statehood. 

Read More: Sixth Time a Charm? Puerto Ricans Vote on Statehood Once Again

“On multiple occasions, the people of Puerto Rico have voted for statehood but Congress never moved to resolve the issues of status,” Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of the House and the head of the island’s Republican party, said in a statement. “This is the first time we will have a plebiscite that is binding for Congress and only with non-colonial options.”

The island has been a U.S. possession since 1898 when William McKinley’s administration seized the colony at the end of the Spanish-American War. Since then, La Isla del Encanto has progressively won greater autonomy but is still at a disadvantage when it comes to federal funding, programs and representation. Although Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, residents don’t have the right to vote for president and don’t have a say in Congress.

— With assistance by Erik Wasson(Adds context about the Senate vote in 7th paragraph and quote from Representative in 9th)

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Fuel prices at a gas station in Franklin Park, New Jersey, US, on May 17.
Fuel prices at a gas station in Franklin Park, New Jersey, US, on May 17.Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg


Molly Smith and

Erik WassonMay 19, 2022, 5:00 AM ASTUpdated on

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Many Democrats blame price-gouging companies for the worst surge in Americans’ cost of living in more than a generation. But economists, including several who are left-leaning, disagree.

Desperate to avoid a wipeout in November congressional elections, House Democrats passed a bill Thursday they present as a centerpiece of their response to record-high gas prices. It would confer power to bar the sale of consumer fuels at “unconscionably excessive” prices.

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