Puerto Rico Democracy Act – Their Road to Statehood

According to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, later this week. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) stated today that the vote will actually take place tomorrow.

Statehood has traditionally been granted only to territories whose residents show, in referendum or otherwise, overwhelming support for statehood. There is no such support in Puerto Rico. Occasional votes have been held asking island residents if they wanted statehood instead of their special status, but voters rejected change each time. The statehood option garnered just 46.3 percent and 46.5 percent of the vote in the last two attempts, the most recent in 1998.

Past elections have shown that commonwealth status is favored directly over statehood, directly against independence and directly against some sort of hybrid arrangement. Yet among all four options, commonwealth support appears to enjoy only a strong plurality, but maybe not an absolute majority. The Democrats’ scheme is to first hold a vote with just two options: commonwealth on one side, anything else on the other. If supporters of all three other options ban together, they might vote to rule out the commonwealth without knowing what would replace it.

Only if and when that first vote succeeds would a second vote be held to determine which of the other three options would apply – with commonwealth status off the table.

To stack the deck even more, the House bill would explicitly allow people to vote in this election who were born in Puerto Rico but no longer live there. Nothing appears to bar somebody from voting on statehood while being a registered voter of, say, New York or Florida or even the District of Columbia. There are 2.5 million people who were born in Puerto Rico that now live in the Continental United States that under this bill would be allowed to vote on what should happen to Puerto Rico.

Because Puerto Rico leans heavily Democratic, congressional Democrats pine after the two new senators and perhaps six new House members who would be added to their caucus if statehood passed.

It’s true that if Congress passes this referendum bill, it is not obliged to grant statehood if Puerto Ricans approve it by a narrow margin. But passing the bill would be taken in Puerto Rico as an implied promise that Congress will grant statehood if it comes out ahead in a referendum. Congress shouldn’t make promises, even implied promises, it won’t keep, and especially promises to our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. It certainly shouldn’t do so just to produce a few more votes for one party in the U.S. Senate, House and Electoral College.

To be sure, if Congress passes this bill and the Puerto Rican (and former Puerto Rican) voters choose the statehood option, Congress still would control the ultimate decision to make the island a state.

H.R. 2499, which is being pushed by the New Progressive Party in Puerto Rico trying to create a U.S. sanctioned vote that they say is nonbinding but would give them the legitimacy to implement what is called the Tennessee Plan and then come back and try to seat people in the United States Congress. It’s part of their party platform.

But the thought is that if Puerto Rico sends a full delegation claiming official status and the legitimacy of a popular vote, regardless how slim the margin of victory, a Democrat-majority Congress would seat the delegation in an instant.

Presto! Sew a new star on the flag.

Because H.R. 2499 is non-binding and would only authorize a vote, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not score the bill. The cost to taxpayers would be high. The Lexington Institute has estimated, for example, that it will cost the U.S. $26 billion per year if Puerto Rico is added as a state.

Contact your representative and express your concerns about HR2499 and ask if he or she has read the bill (as we have found, bills are often voted for or against without being read!). You can click here to find out if your representative is a sponsor and to read the bill yourself.


6 thoughts on “Puerto Rico Democracy Act – Their Road to Statehood

  1. “Because Puerto Rico leans heavily Democratic”, This is far from true!! Though the democrats might gain in two seats in the next cycle, that does not mean that P.R. leans democrat.

    There is a lot of room for misunderstanding here, and everyone would do well to really try to understand the issue before making a judgment call.

    It is the CONSERVATIVES in Puerto Rico who are pushing this vote. Don’t be fooled by the “progressive” in the party’s name. They are bonafide conservatives, the vast majority of whom are US registered republicans. Though I agree democrats will try to use the issue to cause confusion and chaos, especially now, with the Arizona and illegal immigration issues. The fact remains: The Puerto Rican issue in question here is 100% in a category of its own. Don’t take the bait from the democrats and confuse the issues.

  2. There is a lot of misinformation here. First of all, the New Progressive Party is not a local branch of the Democratic party, as the information implies. Both Republicans and Democrats are members of the NPP. It’s founder, Luis A. Ferré, was a member of the Republican Party and its present president and governor Luis Fortuño is also a Republican. There is no such thing as a Commonwealth or Estado Libre Asociado (Free Associated State) status. The Supreme Court has determined that Puerto Rico is a territory; this is: a colony of the USA.

    Commonwealth-ELA status is a political gimmick concocted by US special interests and local elites to operate a tax shelter and a hideout for runaway plants that benefit from low wages and avoid the scrutiny of the federal government, the US media, and the common US citizen, particularly when it comes to the management of federal funds.

    The “special status” you refer to is no more than a shameful opportunistic colonial rule imposed in 1952 on a people who have been US born-citizens since 1917 and who were sold a free-lunch of economic benefits with no taxes, which never materialized for the common citizen. The outcome has been a splendid banquet for US corporations, including too-big-to-fall finance moguls like UBS AG that were partially exempted from the scrutiny of the SEC. (See: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=a7jT9c2Pr1jg&refer=home )

    Puerto Rico is a community of US citizens that must abide by federal laws but are not allowed to participate in the election of those who rule them. The only federal laws they are exempted from are the ones that benefit big corporations and their local junior partners.

    HR 2499 is purported at ending the colonial status of the four million natural-born citizens on the island, who can’t exert full citizenship rights either as a state of the Union or as a sovereign independent state. Most Puerto Ricans think the time has come to end the colonial-territorial status of Puerto Rico, which hinders our development, keep us in an infantile stage as citizens and is supported by the US taxpayer. This is why HR 2499 should not be passed with the present colonial territorial status as an option.

    This is not a binding bill as you mentioned. If the majority of Puerto Ricans vote to become a state, but Congress declines a petition, then Puerto Rico would ask for its separation, either as a full sovereign state or as a sovereign state in association with the US ruled by a treaty between sovereign nations.

    It is true that US citizens of Hispanic origin are watching how the parties respond to this issue.

  3. This is an excellent analysis of a deceptively brief but thoroughly pernicious piece of legislation. The bill’s purpose is to create inexorable momentum for making Puerto Rico the 51st state–sort of like prizing a large boulder from its resting place at the top of a hill–against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the American people.

    The bill’s proponents have learned from their mistakes in 1998. At that time, similar legislation that passed the House by one vote but was never taken up by the Republican-led Senate, was explicit about the nature of the statehood that would be voted upon. There would be no question that Spanish would continue to be the dominant language under statehood. The Resident Commissioner at that time was strident in his declaration that the proper metaphor for U.S. society was a “salad bowl” as opposed to a “melting pot.” His pro-statehood New Progressive Party has not changed on that score. They have only become more diplomatic and, if you will, sneakier.

    But the principal blame for the sneakiness lies not on their shoulders but upon the New World Order globalists who are pulling the strings of the Congress and the American press. They are really trying to keep this matter under the radar. In that respect it really is 1998 all over again. See the articles I wrote at that time at http://www.dcdave.com/article1/073198.html, http://www.dcdave.com/article1/042098.html, and http://www.dcdave.com/article1/031398.html to get a deeper understanding of the important issues involved, and for the sense of deja vu.

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