BREAKING NEWS: House Passes Bill Giving Puerto Rico the Right to Determine Its Own Future
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act, which would allow Puerto Rico to hold the first-ever binding referendum on whether to become a state or gain some sort of independence. The bill passed with 233 votes in favor and 191 votes against, with the majority of votes coming from the Democratic side and some support from Republicans.
The bill would provide Puerto Ricans with three options: statehood, independence, or independence with free association. If the option of statehood was chosen, then the Congress would commit to accept Puerto Rico into the United States as the 51st state. If the option of independence was chosen, then the terms of foreign affairs, U.S. citizenship, and use of the U.S. dollar would be defined following negotiations.
The bill was championed by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who stated that it was “crucial” that the proposal be “informed and led by Puerto Ricans.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also expressed his support for the bill, stating that the people of Puerto Rico had been “excluded from the full promise of American democracy and self-determination for far too long.”
The bill was met with both support and criticism from Puerto Ricans. Governor Pedro Pierluisi, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, expressed his anticipation for the vote, calling it a “historic day.” However, others such as Pablo José Hernández Rivera, an attorney in Puerto Rico, expressed frustration that the current status as a U.S. commonwealth was not included as an option.
The bill now goes to the split Senate, where it faces a ticking clock before the end of the year and Republican lawmakers who have long opposed statehood. It’s uncertain whether the bill will pass in the Senate, but the vote in the House marks an important step towards the potential of Puerto Rico deciding its own future and possibly becoming the 51st state of the Union.