Clinton Does Not Plan To See Calderon In PR… DC To Hold First Presidential Primaries To Dramatize Lack Of Votes In Congress… Senate Committee Did Not Eliminate Statehood For PR In 1998 As Nationalists Claim

February 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

. .. Clinton Does Not Plan To See Calderon in PR

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to go to Puerto Rico on April 5 for a paid speaking engagement. Although the event organizer says that the former president may meet with Governor Sila Calderon ("commonwealth" party) and has other plans while on the island, sources close to Clinton say he has agreed to no meetings or events other than the speech.

The possibility of Clinton meeting with Calderon has sparked understandable interest. One reason is that, while president, Clinton and Calderon’s predecessor, Pedro Rossello (statehood party/D), developed a close and personal relationship. Rossello recently said that he will seek the statehood party’s nomination to challenge Calderon in 2004.

The relationship developed as Rossello reliably -- and strongly -- supported Clinton on policy and personal matters. This support even extended to Puerto Rico issues in which Rossello wanted the president to take a different position than he ultimately did.

By contrast, Calderon was a harsh critic of Clinton on personal as well as policy grounds. She took particular issue with almost every one of the then president’s Puerto Rico initiatives and positions.

Further, like Clinton, Rossello remains active in the Democratic Party. He has, for example, campaigned for Democrats in Clinton’s new home State of New York, which has a significant population of Puerto Rican origin.

On the other hand, Calderon has declined affiliation with the Democratic Party and has strongly supported Republicans in the States. She is a gushing admirer of President Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. She campaigned for NY Governor George Pataki even though she knew it would offend U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Ranking Democrat Charles Rangel and most NY leaders of Puerto Rican origin. Additionally, her primary advisor on issues in the States is top Republican strategist Charlie Black.

The possibility of a Clinton-Calderon meeting April 5 is also of great interest because it would be just a few weeks before the May 1 date that the Navy is to formally give up its training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. The date was set by Clinton in negotiations with Rossello and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It was a key part of an agreement that resolved the most divisive issue between the territorial and federal governments in a century of the islands being under the U.S. flag . . . that is until Calderon became governor.

Calderon opposed the May 1, 2003 date and worked -- without success -- for an immediate end to the training. When she finally accepted the May 1 date, she attributed it to President Bush.

She also refused to recognize the agreement and broke key provisions of it. One of her major complaints was that the agreement under Clinton could not be trusted because its provisions were incorporated into presidential orders and federal laws. While Bush has been president, she has said that a few words from him are all that she needs to be sure that the Navy will give up the range on May 1.

By coincidence, Clinton’s visit to Puerto Rico will occur while the Democratic National Committee’s Business Council is on the island for a fundraising retreat. Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) and Representatives Bob Menendez (NJ) and Ed Markey (MA) are scheduled to attend, as are a number of the party’s major financial supporters.

As of now, Clinton does not plan to be at the retreat, but few observers would be surprised if he went.

Few would also be surprised if he wound up seeing longtime supporters such as Miguel Lausell, Chairman of the DNC’s Hispanic Business Council, and DNC Member and Puerto Rico Senate statehood party leader, Kenneth McClintock Hernandez.

DC To Hold First Presidential Primaries To Dramatize Lack of Votes In Congress

The nation’s capital plans to hold the first presidential nominating contests in the country in 2004 to dramatize its citizens' lack of voting congressional representation.

District of Columbia officials have agreed to schedule political party presidential primaries January 13, 2004, ahead of the usual first events -- caucuses in Iowa and, then, primaries in New Hampshire.

National Democratic and Republican party officers are opposed to the move, in large part because it could stimulate a competition among States to hold the first presidential nominating processes. The early contests garner special attention from candidates and the news media because they quickly winnow down the number of candidates. A large number of Democrats are already vying for their party’s 2004 nomination.

National party opposition could doom DC’s plans. The Congress effectively controls DC’s budget through a special annual subsidy and can overturn the District’s laws.

DC Republicans say they will bow to their national committee’s wishes and hold caucuses to elect delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention if the District schedules the first in the nation primary. National Democratic Party rules permit the 2004 Democratic National Convention to refuse to seat delegates elected in a primary held before the New Hampshire primary.

DC officials are undaunted by the prospect of national government or party action, however. The federal government rejecting a local primaries law or the Democratic National Convention rejecting delegates elected in the DC primary would bring much greater attention to DC’s lack of voting congressional representation.

Implementing the plan follows another major aggressive act by DC’s local government to call attention to its undemocratic status. Recently, it added the slogan "Taxation Without Representation" to its motor vehicle license plates.

DC’s status bears a resemblance to that of Puerto Rico and the other territories of the U.S., but there are distinctions. DC is constitutionally a permanent part of the U.S., while the territories are temporary possessions that could become independent from the U.S. The territories are also parts of the U.S. for the purposes of some laws but not others.

As DC is an actual part of the U.S., federal policies must treat DC equally with the States. The territories are treated differently in some tax and program laws.

As in the territories, though, the federal government can determine what kind of local government DC will have and overturn actions of the local government in local affairs.

Citizens in DC elect a Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives who can vote in committees but not in the full House. Voters in three territories -- Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- also elect Delegates. Voters in Puerto Rico elect a Resident Commissioner to the U.S. who is treated like a Delegate by the federal government. Voters in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands elect a Resident Representative in the U.S., who is not seated in the Congress.

Citizens in DC also elect presidential electors by virtue of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Citizens in the territories cannot, although citizens in all but the Northern Marianas elect delegates to the national party presidential nominating conventions.

Senate Committee Did Not Eliminate Statehood For Puerto Rico In 1998 As Nationalists Claim

A U.S. Senate Committee aide this week disputed a claim by a group of leading nationalists in Puerto Rico that the Committee had eliminated statehood as an option for Puerto Rico in 1998.

The nationalists -- advocates of free association or independence for Puerto Rico -- claimed that the Senate’s lead Committee on territorial matters, Energy and Natural Resources, eliminated statehood as an option in considering a bill that would have enabled Puerto Ricans to choose whether the territory would become a State of the United States or a sovereign nation. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives, was blocked in the Senate by then Republican leader Trent Lott (MS), a close ally of Puerto Rico’s "commonwealth" party, and Don Nickles (OK), an Energy Committee member.

As proof that statehood had been eliminated, the nationalists cited a Committee hearing on national sovereignty for the territory. According to the San Juan Star, the nationalists said that hearing was for a status resolution process that would only include nationhood options for Puerto Rico. El Vocero of Puerto Rico quoted them as saying that no advocates of statehood -- supported by 46.5% of Puerto Ricans -- were invited to testify.

The Committee aide pointed out, however, that the purpose of the Committee session, actually a "workshop" rather than a hearing, was to examine issues raised by the idea of national sovereignty for Puerto Rico in detail. Additionally, other workshops were held that addressed statehood issues. The aide also noted that the House bill, a companion bill sponsored by a number of senators of both national parties, and the Committee chairman’s alternative legislation, all contemplated statehood as an option for Puerto Rico.

A major objective of the workshop on national sovereignty options for Puerto Rico was to convey that the U.S. would not continue to grant citizenship to persons born in Puerto Rico if the territory became a sovereign nation. A major objective of another workshop -- on economic issues associated with the various options -- was to clarify that economic, including budgetary, questions are not an impediment to statehood. It demonstrated that Puerto Rico could thrive under statehood and that statehood would not impose a major impact on the federal budget.

In addition, although Lott and Nickles succeeded in blocking the status choice bill in1998, they failed to block a resolution from passing the Senate that committed to consider a Puerto Rican petition for a status change. The debate on the resolution made clear that it contemplated a petition for statehood.

The nationalists made the claim that the Senate had rejected statehood as an option for Puerto Rico in announcing a private commission to design nationhood status options for the territory.

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

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