RESOURCES COMMITTEE OF THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
PROVIDES CIVICS LESSON ON AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY IN ACTION:
THE US-PUERTO RICO POLITICAL STATUS ACT,
HR 856 (THE YOUNG BILL)
THE US-PUERTO RICO POLITICAL STATUS ACT, HR 856,
THE YOUNG BILL
PROVIDING A PROCESS FOR PUERTO RICO SELF-DETERMINATION LEADING TO FULL SELF-GOVERNMENT THROUGH EITHER SEPARATE SOVEREIGNTY (INDEPENDENCE OR FREE ASSOCIATION) OR STATEHOOD
RESOURCES COMMITTEE OF THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MAY 21, 1997
Chairman Don Young (R-AK)
The legislation before the committee HR 856 United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act is the response to the request of the Puerto Rico Legislature asking the 105th Congress to authorize a political status referendum before the end of 1998.
In order to develop a fair, balanced, and meaningful response, the committee has conducted five hearings and heard over seventy witnesses in Washington and in Puerto Rico doing this and the previous congress. There has been extensive bi-partisan discussion among members of the congress, administration, with leaders of Puerto Rico from all sectors of the political spectrum regarding the process and definition of the status quo option.
The ranking minority member and I jointly wrote the presidents of each of these political parties in Puerto Rico and offered them the opportunity to present their preferred status definitions. Since the letters were sent the committee has held three hearings on the process and definitions proposed in the legislation. Every effort has been made to incorporate aspects of the three parties responses regarding their preferred status definitions, including the actual proposed wording where-ever possible. Forty provisions of the bill have been modified or added to reflect the aspirations of the parties and suggestions of members of congress and administration.
Many of these changes are based on suggestions of numerous witnesses, interested individuals who put an incredible amount of time and effort to formulate specific recommendations regarding the proposed political status process. These changes have been included in the amendment in a nature and substance in which I intend to offer. At that time I will explain the amendments and the changes.
At this time, I would like to recognize Carlos Romero-Barcelogreat leader from Puerto Rico, friend of mine, delegate for an opening statement.
Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barcelo (D-PR)
Thank-you, thank-you very much Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity.
Mr. Chairman and fellow committee members, today is a historic day, not only for Puerto Rico, but for our nation as a whole. It is an historic day, because in a few minutes we will be casting a vote which may very well determine the future of the 3.8 million United States citizens that reside in Puerto Rico.
In order to understand the magnitude of todays vote, it is of the utmost important that we put matter into historical perspective. Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States in 1898 the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish American War.
The first fifty years under the American Flag were marked by a strong and direct involvement of the United States Government in the administration of local Puerto Rican affairs. In the first two years, Puerto Rico was officially ruled by a military government. The military government was replaced in 1900 by a federally appointed civil government. In 1917 the Jones act extended United States citizenship to all persons born in Puerto Rico. It was not until 1948, however, that Puerto Ricans were allowed by the United States Government to elect their own government.
Then in 1950 the United States Congress passed the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act, which authorized Puerto Rico to establish a local self-government structure in the image of State Governments. The intent was to create a provisional form of local self-rule until the status issue could be resolved. Puerto Rico would remain an unincorporated territory of the United Statessubject to the authority and powers of Congress under the Territorial Clause of the Constitution which states that Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United Statesthats Article 4, Section 3.
Prominent members of the commonwealth party recognized this fact at the time. Even former governor and commonwealth architect, Louis Munoz-Marin, testified in a congressional hearing on March 4, 1950, that the proposed changes to the island status, "did not change the fundamental conditions of Puerto Rico as non-incorporation and only permitted Puerto to develop its own self government." Puerto Ricos resident commissioner at that time, further stated on the floor of the House in June 30, 1950, that, "while the changes of the relationship would allow the people of Puerto Rico to organize themselves in accordance of the constitution of their own adoption, the present exercise of United States authority, all maters of federal nature, would continue undisturbed."
Jose Trias-Monge a former chief judge of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, a member of the constitutional assembly acknowledged in his book, E Storie Constitutional Puerto Rico, that even after 1952, Puerto Rico continued suffering a colonial status and wrote that, "Puerto Ricans have the distinction of having the longest history of colonialism in the whole world. What a sad distinction." My colleague, Robert Underwood, has indicated to me that Puerto Rico is not alone in that, that Guam goes along with it tofor the same period of timeand longer.
While the commonwealth leaders recognized these facts here in Washington they went back to Puerto Rico and sold a very different commonwealth to our people. They spoke about a new relationship based on a permanent union with the United States, encompassed in a bi-lateral pact or compact that could only be altered except by mutual consentwhere Puerto Rico would be an autonomous political entitysovereign over matters covered by the constitution of Puerto Rico. This so-called commonwealth, they told the people of Puerto Rico, would guarantee irrevocable US citizenship equal to that of citizens in the 50 States and fiscal autonomy for the island, among other things. In other words, Congress would not have any authority to impose any taxes in Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately the government of the United States was an accomplice to this misrepresentation. In 1953 the United States transmitted to the United Nations a formal notification that it would no longer submit reports regarding the status of Puerto Rico because the island had achieved a full measure of self government and administration under the new constitutional arrangement. Thereafter the General Assembly of the United Nations, based upon the consent of the government of Puerto Rico and the United States explanation of the new status, adopted Resolution 748 by a vote of 22 to 18 with 19 abstentions, thereby eliminating the need of the United States to report on Puerto as a non-self governing territory.
We all know here in this congress that every week laws are passed regarding our environment, labor laws, communications, transportation, health, you name itand those laws apply in Puerto Rico. And there is no one here representing Puerto Rico that has a right to vote on the floor when those laws get enacted. Neither do we have any representation in the Senate. So obviously it cannot be true that Puerto Rico had achieved full measure of self governmentobviously there is no such thing as a full measure of self government. We are still, in constitutional legal terms of the United States, a territoryor in international terms, a colony of the United States.
Mr. Chairman, people may call it anyway they like: commonwealth, new commonwealth, enhanced commonwealth, associated republic, free-associated state, but the fact is ours is a colonial relationship that clearly contradicts the basic tenants of democracy and full self government. One in which Puerto Ricos economic, social, and political affairs are to a large degree controlled and influenced by a government or which we exercise no control and in which we do not participate.
In 1994 in December, the President called for a Summit of the Americas in Miami. And during that meeting, before he met with other nations, he called in the senators and congressmen who were down there in Miami meeting with him, and he had the ambassadors of Latin America, and all throughout America present, and the members of his cabinet, and his staff at the White House, and the vice-president, and after he finished spoken to us he asked us to make some comments.
And when I had the opportunity I said, "Mr. President, I want to congratulate you for holding this Summit of the Americas, and for the issues that have been selected, but one of the two issues was the strengthening of democracy in the Americas. When you talk democracy in America you are preaching morality in your underwear." He said, "Mr. Carlos, what do you mean?" I said, "Mr. President, because their are 3,800,000 US citizens in an island in the Caribbean who are disenfranchised. What moral authority do we have to cast or hold a plebiscite when we have 3,800,000 US citizens disenfranchised?" "Well Carlos," he said, "you voted for that." I said, "Mr. President, is a vote in a democracy to disenfranchise yourself a valid vote? Did we not decide in the South that a white majority could not deprive a black minority of his right to vote and of his right of representation? Why is it that a white majority cannot deprive a black minority, but a political party in Puerto Rico can deprive everybody of their right to vote and of representation? Are we from Mars, Mr. President, or are we US citizens?" He said, "we will have to talk about that later, Carlos."
This is the issue, this is the problem. We are US citizens and disenfranchised. Next year it will be a hundred years since we have been part of the United States, 81 years that we have been citizens disenfranchised. The people of Puerto Rico have been mislead for too long. It is time for the pretending, the partisan mischief, and the dysfunctional political status process in Puerto Rico to end. It is a time for all of us to put hypocrisy aside and be truthful about what the real choices are for Puerto Rican.
And this is what this Bill does, Mr. Chairman. As we approach a century of US sovereignty over Puerto Rico, the time has come to empower the people by giving them clear choiceschoices which they understand and which are truly decolonizing so that we can reveal the people of Puerto Ricos true desire through a legitimate act of self-determination. The legislation that we will mark-up today, United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, should resolve, once and for all, the long standing Puerto Rican political status dilemma by providing a constitutionally recognized process that would allow Puerto Ricans, for the first time since United States acquired control over the island.
Since the Bills introduction on February 27th the committee has held three hearings, two of which took place in Puerto Rico last month. Members have had the opportunity to hear testimony from over seventy witnesses representing the entire political spectrum on the island. Support for the Bill has grown dramatically with almost 90 co-sponsors in the House, including Newt Gingrich, and minority leader, Richard Gephardt. HR 856 has a strong bi-partisan support that is hardly seen on Capital Hill. This bi-partisan is also reflected within our own committee where the Bill has 30 co-sponsors, including Chairman Don Young, and ranking member George Miller.
And this is why I began my remarks by stating that today was a historic day. We are more than half-way through the 1990sa decade that the United Nations General Assembly declared to be the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Puerto Ricos political status remains an unresolved issue that has left the United States citizens of Puerto Rico in a state of political limbo and disenfranchised for nearly a century. United States cannot seek to promote and at times enforce democracy elsewhere in the world when it continues to relegate 3,800,000 of its own citizens to an indefinite second class statusdisenfranchised, discriminated against, and unable to exercise the most basic right in a democracythe right to vote and participate in this government. We in congress have not only the power, but also the moral obligation to bring this issue to a conclusion once and for all. The 3,800,000 US citizens of Puerto Rico deserve no less.
Thank-you Mr. Chairman.
I thank the gentlemen for his statementI am going to recognize the gentlemen from Californias opening statement. And if I could, because of the time factor, if someone has to make an opening statement, I will recognize them for a short period of time, but lets try to move this along if we can so we can talk about the amendment and the substitute because their will be debate about that.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member
Thank-you very much Mr. Chairman, this morning, as our colleague, Carlos Romero-Barcelo has said is an important step in a journey that could profoundly alter the history of the United States and almost certainly will effect the destiny of 4 million US citizens who live in Puerto Rico. We have been here beforevoting on how the Puerto Rican people could determine their political status in a fair and peaceful way. In the past we have failed to craft a process that resulted in a decisive outcome. Whether we will succeed in 1997 before the hundredth anniversary of Puerto Rico joining the American family, will be greatly effected by what we do here today.
The Bill before us, of which I am a co-sponsor, addresses a host of contentious and complex issues. But as in the past the core issue that is the status options will be presented to the people of Puerto Rico in the plebiscite of 1998. And as in the past, the central test will be whether the process we construct to determine Puerto Ricos future status meets the standards of fairness which we demand for ourselves. I could not support this legislation in the last congress because I believe it was then written to assure that one of the major political parties in Puerto Rico, the commonwealth party, was effectively guaranteed to loose a plebiscite.
Since the failure of that legislation I have been engaged in many productive discussions with Chairman Young and Mr. Romero-Barcelo, and our staffs have made some exhaustive efforts to remove the prejudices and biases from the legislation and to create a process that will produce an outcome that we can all respect.
Progress has been made on several key provisions: The period of transition has been shortened, as I requested, from a period of at least ten years to no more than ten years. Improvements have been made in the section dealing with the use of English and Puerto Rico in the event of a change in status.
But I regret to say that on the fundamental question, the status definitions to be offered in the plebiscite, we still have disagreements that if left uncorrected, in my opinion, will doom this Bill and the plebiscite itself. The heart of the problem is the definition of assigned to the commonwealth option in the current legislation. I use the term "signed" intentionally, because earlier on this year, you and I met and sent a letter to the presidents of the major political parties of Puerto Rico asking that provide us with a definition for the committee to reconsider in redrafting this legislation. I am glad to say that all the parties responded in a timely fashion. The definitions provided by statehood and independence parties are now largely contained in the substitute. Modifications to statehood and independence have been sanctioned by those two parties.
But the definitions submitted by the commonwealth party has been effectively ignored. Despite some progress that has been made towards adopting some of its provisions and staff negotiations last week, ignoring continues. That definition has not been presented to members of this committee, it has not been scrutinized, it has not been debated, it has simply been rejected outright in private. In its place a definition of commonwealth has been inserted that fails to represent the views of the leaders of the commonwealth party and the party itself.
The definition provided by commonwealth leaders makes significant changes in the current status arrangement between Puerto Rico and the Federal Government. Changes that are well within the privy of Congress to grant. These changes would present a commonwealth that is more autonomous than at present, but still connected in important ways to the entire nation. And most importantly, the definition submitted by the commonwealth party recognizes these changes have to be sanctioned by future congresses.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to this process this morning. I hope that we can reconcile these differences and we can proceed to the floor and eventually to sent this legislation to the Presidents desk and I will withhold further comment at the time I offer the amendment on the presentation of the substitute definition of commonwealth.
I have an amendment. Everybody agreeable to that. Then we can discuss the debate a little longer.
As I explained earlier about the extensive efforts of the committee regarding Puerto Rican political status was additional hearings and oversight. We jointly wrote the three presidents of the gentlemen of California has mentioned, the three principle political parties in Puerto Rico on March 3rd, 1997 to solicit definitions which they believed most appropriate for the status they support.
While we never guaranteed that their status definition would be excepted exactly as presented, we did promise they would be presented to the committee members for consideration, and a vote would be held on the definition if they so desired. The three party responses regarding the status definitions have been provided to all committee members for their review. Although their has been some changes to both the statehood and independence definition endorsed or submitted by the two parties of advocating these statusneither has asked for a separate vote. While the independence definition and the substitute does not have all the language as is submitted by the Puerto Rican independence party, their agenda for negotiations has been well received and aspects of the definition have been included in a substitute. We are looking forward to the administration to redefine the measure further.
Many aspects of the commonwealth definition proposed by the commonwealth party have been included in the substitute, thereby expanding on the existing definition of the Bill as introduced. Each of these status definitions were examined and developed based on constitutional, legal, budgetary, and fiscal considerationand input from the administration and the minority. The proposed amendment and the nature of the substitute maintains original stage process for the United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, which follows historical precedent and past practice of the Congress in resolving the political status of the areas that the United States control.
However, the process has been streamlined and flexibility increased to provide for full self-government for separate sovereignty or statehood by changes in the transition period for a ten year minimumno more than ten years, eliminating two presidential proclamation transition, implementing stages, and specifying that the President is to recommend a date of implementation of the final status of the transition periodthus streamlining the whole process. The requirement to conduct and initial decision referendum between continuing commonwealth, separate sovereignty, and statehood, has been changed from once every four years to at least once every ten years. A few classifications have been made to the findings and policy sections and most of the other changes have occurred in the status definitions which will appear on the ballet and referendum in 1998.
The Commonwealth definition now includes reference to the Puerto Rican constitutional self-government, United States nationality, citizenship and rights, privileges, the immunities, representation in Congress by the Resident Commissioner, levels of federal benefits and taxes extended to Puerto Rico, the use of the United States currency, and the inclusion of Puerto Rico within the United States custom territories and defense systems.
The Separate Sovereignty definition which includes the possibility of either outright independence or sovereign republic in free association has been reformulated by defining attributes of independence to the first three provisions. Certain responsibility to the United States regarding the retention of the United States citizenship and vested rights for individuals after the date of separate sovereignty in the forth and fifth provisions. And aspects of the future Puerto Rican United States relationship on government to government basis in the last two provisions. Reference to a free association have been shifted to the last provision to clarify that free association is established based on separate sovereign republic status.
The Statehood definition has been modified to conform with the wording found in the
Supremacy Clause in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. It has also been clarified that under statehood the people of Puerto Rico have equal privileges and immunities as well as equal rights, benefits, duties, and responsibilities, as citizenship. The additional change related to statehood is based on the request by the administration to clarify to the point in time, during the transition to statehood, the Constitution should extend to its full to Puerto Rico.
I want to thank my colleagues on the committee and others in the House for the support for this very historic moment. The people of Puerto Rico have waited 100 years for the United States to provide them an opportunity for full self-government. It is time for Congress to permit democracy to fully develop in Puerto Ricoeither as a separate sovereign republic or as a state if the majority of the people no longer content to continue as existing commonwealth structure of local government. Are there any discussions on this amendment?
No discussion on this amendment. Are there yes, Neil.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI)
Mr. Chairman, could you point out the page. I think the key to this is this definition thing. What page exactly and lines refer to the either independence or statehood or where are the definitions?
The reason I ask that Mr. Chairman is that I think it relates to the very clear statement on page eight that the political status is based on either separate Puerto Rico sovereignty and national and full and equal United States nationality and citizenship. So, on page 11, can you point out the lines that refer to the commonwealth definition. I am not quite sure where it is thats why I wanna I wanna look at it in relation
All page 11, all page 12, and thats it.
OK. And so we need to read that in relation to the amendment that Mr. Miller will offer right? OK, thank-you.
Yes, Mr. Miller Are there amendments to the amendment? Gentleman from California, Mr. Miller
Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment. The members have the amendment in their folder. Mr. Chairman, as I if I may explain the amendment. The gentlemen has been recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Chairman, as I stated in my opening statement, I believe that as we proceed with this process that the choices that will be presented to the people of Puerto Rico to make a determination about the future status of Puerto Rico, must be those that represent the various factions within Puerto Rico. As many on this committee are aware of, but some may not be aware of, the question of status is one of a very long and hot political discussion on the island of Puerto Rico. There have been previous plebiscites, not sanctioned by the Congress, but offered to the people of Puerto Rico, and theyve been narrowly decidedone has been narrowly decided and basically splits between those who would like to move to a status of statehood and those that seek to preserve the commonwealth status.
I think that this plebiscite is somewhat different. This is a plebiscite where we are in the process of telling the people of Puerto Rico that for the first time with the sanction of the Congress of the United States, they will be free to describe there future status and to choose that status. And then the Congress will receive the results of that plebiscite and Congress and the President of the United States will make a determination and return it to them to affirm it. This is different in that manner because this is really the first time that the people of Puerto Rico and when we were at the hearing many of the witnesses talked about the people of Puerto Rico. They talked about their political history, their cultural history, the history of their relationship with the United States. But this was about a people making a decision. And for that reason I think these definitions must in fact reflect the desires of, in this case, the parties that reflect those factions on the island.
I do not believe that the current definition of commonwealth in the legislation in fact does that. In fact, I can argue that the definition of commonwealth in the current legislation is essentially sent out to skewer the determination and to leave the people who support a form of commonwealth with few if any options. Not to participate in a plebiscite, because it does not reflect their views, or to participate in a plebiscite that does not reflect their views. If they choose not to participate, or, in fact, the election is tainted, I think it makes a much more difficult option for the Congress of the United States and for the President in terms of determining whether or not we then want to live with the outcome of that.
I think it is also very important that we understand that the definition that has been offered to the committee is one that this committee has not publicly scrutinized and dealt with. And I think it is also important that we understand that the definition that is being offered to us is designed and written and in face states, that it reserves clearly to the Congress the powers that the Congress must reserve to itself. It is implicit under the constitution, and it reserves those matters to the Constitution of the United States, which the Constitution must in fact reserve to this body and to this country. And it is a definition of a Union that I think in fact that the supporters of commonwealth have chosen, because this is the opportunity to look to the future.
Some have said they must vote on the status quo, they must vote on what they have today. This plebiscite is not about Puerto Rico today, this plebiscite is about Puerto Rico in the future. And when over 45% or 50% of the people on this island support this form of commonwealth today, they should be free to choose the form of commonwealth that they seek in the future, because this is their one chance in history to this. As with those who support statehood, as with those who support independence. Their definitions have been approved by the party and are in this legislation. The commonwealth definition is not in that situation. Commonwealth has been approved in a sense by those who oppose commonwealth, and that is not a situation which you should take into a democratic election.
I am not one who happens to agree with the status of commonwealth, but I strongly believe that the proponents of commonwealth have an opportunity to decide the definition under which they want to live in an arrangement with the United States of America and present that definition to this Congress and to the President. Will they get all that they seek in this plebiscite? We dont know the answer to that question. Is all that they seek within the Constitutional limits? I believe it is. Is all that they seek respectful of the powers of Congress? I believe it is. And so after that this is a determination for the representatives and the supporters of commonwealth. And that is what my amendment seeks to do.
This is not some strange concept. Every concept embodied in this proposal has embodied it somewhere else in this relationship with other entities. And it reserves to the Congress. It reserves to the Fifth Amendment, the rights and determinations about citizenship. This is not a foreign concept. What is foreign to this concept is the suggestion that we would dictate the definition and start over the process that the representative of Puerto Rico abhorsthe fact that people did not get to make this determinationthat this is process which has been effectively imposed upon them. This is about a plebiscite.
And I am coming to the end, Mr. Chairman.
I thank God
But this is an important point. This is, well, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect let me say this: this is unlike any other process that any other member I think currently in this body has gone through. This is serious and this is solemn. And this ought to be straight up. And we should not try to tinker and re-jigger the system at the outset to predetermine an outcome. We will be in acceptance of the determination that is made by the people of Puerto Rico. And we will again debate whether or not we are willing to live with that relationship and whether we will accept it in total or in part, because you cannot deny the right of the Congress of the United States to do that.
One of those determinations may be statehood. We think we know what that means. But this is a little bit different state then we have talked about before, with its culture and its history. For some that may be a troublefor some that is no problem. The other maybe independence. It would be quite a throw to the United States if someone decided they wanted to break away from us. We will have to accept that, reject it, or deal with it. And the other may be commonwealthwhich is what we are talking about continuing a relationship that is somewhere between statehood and independence. But one which they seek to sanction if they are successful. And they ought to be able to do that on the terms that are acceptable to them.
Again, it does not, it does not infringe upon the historic precedence in law, in the constitution, or the powers of this congress. And I would hope as you read through it you would see that this is a proper request of this congress. I believe this levels the playing-field. I believe that this allows this plebiscite to go forward. And I believe it allows this plebiscite to bring back to the Congress an undisputed and real result of that plebiscite which then it is also suggested to the members of this Congress, will be a very solemn decision for all of us. I would hope that as you vote this morning, as you vote later on the floor of the House, that you would understand that you are accepting a burden that is very real in terms of the results with respect to the status of the people of Puerto Rico; and we should proceed in that manner, and I would ask for an "aye" vote on the amendment.
The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Kennedy, recognized for five minutes.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)
Rhode Island, Mr. Chairman
Well, I there everywhere, there everywhere.
At least your not calling me Joe right now.
Mr. Kennedy, I would never do that go ahead.
I know it was a late night last night and were all suffering the ramifications of sleep deprivation today. But I want to address this amendment to the sponsor of it with respect to the fact that under the proposed language, the individual rights, privileges and immunities provided for the Constitution of the United States would apply to the residents of Puerto Rico. The residents of Puerto Rico would be entitled to receive benefits under federal social programs equal with the residents of several states contingent on equitable contributions for Puerto Rico as provided by law. And later in Section 3, you have the exemption of Puerto Rico from specific federal laws or provisions thereof.
So what I want to understand here is, what in the nature of this definition? What in the nature of this definition has Puerto Rico have the same status as other citizens of the United States? In other words what I am trying to get at here is if Puerto Rico can arrive at full self government necessary to its economic, social, cultural development under the Constitution so it can get all the benefits of being, you know, basically all the rights and privileges of full citizenshipand yet it also can submit proposals for international agreements and exempt itself from certain federal laws, I want to know whether that can apply for my state of Rhode Island?
Because my state of Rhode Island would like to have all the guarantees for what we are requesting for Puerto Rico and were a small state, but we would also like to take advantage of some opportunities to strike some international agreements with some foreign countries. Maybe for preferential trade status and the like. Because if it is good enough for Puerto Rico to have these opportunities, I know the citizens of my state, if I were to vote for this, would want to say, hey listen Congressman Kennedy, you struck a pretty good deal there for Puerto Rico, what about striking it for Rhode Island. And thats the point I would like the ranking member to answer.
Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO)
Will the gentleman yield just a minute and let me add just one little thing to that thank you Mr. Kennedy. Also, its my understanding, George, that they are exempt under your definition from the normal taxation of American citizens and if you would just add that to your answer.
That point was raised by Mr. Kennedy. First of all it is very important when you read the sections, Mr. Kennedy, that you read the entire section. This is about Puerto Rico submitting this to the Congress of the United States. When it says to enable Puerto Rico to arrive at full self government over matters necessary to its social, cultural development under its constitution and calling for a constitutional convention it says, "The President and the Congress, as appropriate, would consider whether such proposals are consistent to the vital interest of the United States."
With respect to international agreements today, Puerto Rico is allowed to be a member of the Caribbean Development Bank for which we are not a member. Puerto Rico is allowed to engage in international trade agreements and cultural exchanges which we are not necessarily a party to, but we allow that to happen. Would we allow them to define our determinations as to GATT? Would we allow them to join the WTO without our permission or going through those processes? The answer is no.
And thats why this definition contemplates powers of the Congress and the powers of the Presidency in the Constitution of the United States. That this is what they say they want this arrangement to be. If we reject that, I guess we will have to go back and find another arrangement. But this is an embodiment of what they believe it should be.
By the same token, when we go to the question of taxation, rather than use the terms taxation, they talk about providing for equitable contributions. Again the President of the United States and this Congress will decide, just as we have decided under the current relationship that they wouldnt pay some taxes, their would be certain tax breaks, and yet they would receive a certain level of funding. As Carlos will tell you time and again, its unfair that citizens would receive 80% of what other citizens are entitled to. But that is a determination that this body has made. So again, in agreement with ordinary relationships that we currently have in this relationship or elsewhere, or as provided for in the Constitution.
If I can just finish, because he is going right to the core of this matter. And I am banking on The question was, would your State like this? My fear about this commonwealth definition is that Mr. Young will think that this is what he would like. Because this is in fact the re-negotiation we are going through when we talk about involving government to the local governments. We just devolved the social-welfare system, we just devolved federal entitlements to the State and local governments. The Supreme Court for the first time in 30 years ruled against us on the Commerce Clause, saying that states have additional rights. That Congress doesnt have those rights under the Congress laws. So as Puerto Rico looks to the future, it is no different than the State of California, the State of Alaska, looking to the futurethats why people call for constitutional conventions. They dont call for conventions to say, we want to reaffirm the status quo, they say we want to talk about changes and relationships between states and relationships between states and individuals and parties, and that is what this amendment does.
Thank-you. I appreciate your explanation, but I just want to reiterate what I heard you say and that is, "the nature of this relationship would still ultimately decided by the Congress" and I think the purpose of this is if it is going to be decided by the Congress, then the people of Puerto Rico should have a voice in the Congress and thats called representation.
And that is where we get back to the fundamental aspect of this amendment and that is whatever you call it it still relegates Puerto Rico under the Territorial Clause. You can call it whatever you want, but it will still relegate Puerto Rico to its future being determined by us here in the Congress, in some ultimate fashion. The people of Puerto Rico will decide, maybe with much more flexibility under this provision that you have put forth here, than they currently have. But ultimately you are acknowledging that this Congress would have final say, because wed have to make sure the Constitution is fully and fairly recognized in Puerto Rico. And the only way to do that is to have his Congress decide on it. And yet, in this Congress, we have no representatives from Puerto Rico. So that is where the fundamental difference is in the commonwealth issue verses statehood is that with statehood, people do have a final say in their
If the gentleman will yield because Mr. Kennedy has raised very sound and fundamental points why many of us are not supporters of the commonwealth option. But let me suggest to you again that democracy sometimes is messy. And sometimes people can choose things which are not necessarily in their interest. I dont think you can deal with the issue of commonwealth by suggesting that the white majority in the South at the turn of the century imposed slavery. Last time I looked, the slaves werent voting in those elections. They didnt have any determination. This plebiscite is about giving the people of Puerto Rico a choice and a determination. And I would think that it is a very hard representation to go back to the people of Puerto Rico and tell them that they are not going to have representation in the Congress of the United States. But the commonwealth party that represents in and out of every election somewhere about half of the people of this island is prepared to go home and say that, and thats their choice.
One last point here, and I appreciate your points, and that is youve said this is a messy process and what I am worried about here is that the way it is going to be interpreted were going to hold out some false hope here, that with this commonwealth definition that people will believe that in fact they will have the best of both worlds. They can take what they wantsort of a cafeteria style of deciding what parts of the Constitution they want and what parts they dont want. What federal laws they want and what parts they dont want and they have this idea that they can veto it, the ultimate analysis, and I think that is not being forthright with the people, because ultimately they have to understand that we are the ones that have the final say.
If the gentlemen will yield, if by the same token, your suggestion that at a time when they dont have representation you want to force upon them the status quo.
Gentlemen, your time has expired, we have to alternate sides, Mr. Gilchrest youre up next.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
I would just like to ask a couple of questionsthree. If they chose statehood how long a process would it take for them to attain it?
No more than ten years.
If they chose sovereignty, would that process be
No more than ten years.
Now, what is the difference, I read bothI read the chairmans substitute and I read Mr. Millers commonwealth definition. Could, Mr. Chairman, could you or Mr. Miller tell me the difference between the two? Because I dont see much of a difference between the two. What could the people of Puerto Rico do with Mr. Millers amendment, that they cant do with your substitute?
I am going to let Mr. Carlos and I will get into it a little bit later. But, number one, let me tell you one thingeverything in Mr. Millers substitute, I think, will never be accepted by anybody in this Congressthat is number one. And I will give it to Mr. Carlos.
Mr. Chairman, I want to answer Mr. Gilchrest. Yes, definitely what Mr. Millers proposing is something that we understand would not be acceptable by Congresswould not be acceptable to Congress. So therefore, to submit a proposal, as such, to the people of Puerto Rico, would be unfair to the people of Puerto Rico. It would be mischievous to the people of Puerto Ricobecause it might be raising expectations, since Congress put it in a bill therefore we might we are going to get that. Now let me read Mr. Millers proposal which is a proposal by the commonwealth, so youll see why it would never be accepted by Congress. And to have it in a bill offering it to the people of Puerto Rico would be fooling the people of Puerto Rico.
First of all it says, "The New Commonwealth of Puerto Rico would be joined in a union with the United States that would be permanent and the relationship could only be altered by mutual consent." That is different than the one we have in the Bill which says that you can change that agreementeither party can change the agreement, because this will mean the Congress would be giving up its sovereignty tomorrow for the 106th Congress or the 107th or 108th Congress to change the agreement. And Congress is not about to give up its sovereignty on that issue.
Then it says further, "Under a compact the Commonwealth would be an autonomous body politic with its own character and culture, not incorporated into the United States and sovereign over matters covered by the Constitution of Puerto Rico, consistent with the Constitution of the United States." In other words, what the Constitution of Puerto Rico determine is going to be sovereign on, thats what it would be, so we could amend it and change it as we saw fit and therefore we would be sovereign in thatthats what this says. The Congress is not going to allow that and at the same time have the people of Puerto Rico be citizens of the United States. Because then Congress would be giving up its authority to govern the citizens in the Island of Puerto Ricowhich is 3,800,000 US citizens United States citizenship of persons born in Puerto Rico would be guaranteed and secured by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and equal to that citizens born in the several states.
Our citizenship, even though it is a statutory citizenship, is the same as the others. But, the Congress, because it is statutory, can repeal that statute. The 1917 actCongress can say, from now on, from the next month on, persons born in Puerto Rico will no longer be Citizens of the United States by reason of birth. They can say that. They cannot affect the citizenship of those that already have it, but they can change the rights of those not born, and say limit the citizenship and say, just by the fact that youre born in Puerto Rico youre not a citizen of the United States and Congress is not going to give up its authority. And even if it wanted to, 105th Congress can refuse to exercise that authority, but it cannot tell the 106th Congress not to exercise it, because it is an authority granted by the Constitution. And Congress cannot deprive the future congresses of authority or powers empowered by the Constitution.
"The individual," listen to this one, "The individual rights, privileges, and immunities provided for by the Constitution of the United States would apply to residents of Puerto Rico. And residents of Puerto Rico would be entitled to receive benefits on the federal social programs equally with residents of the several states contingent on equitable contributions from Puerto Rico as provided by law." What it says is, now we dont get a SSI, we dont have earning income tax credit, we get one-tenth of what we would be getting Medicaid, we only get about 45% in Title I in education. Puerto Rico would be receiving those programs without paying income taxes. Now is Congress going to allow that? NO WAY! We know that, we know that, we know that Congress is not going to allow that so how can we tell the people of Puerto Rico, this is an option, but we would be misleading the people of Puerto Rico.
I ask that the gentlemen of Maryland be given an extra two minutes since he asked me a question about my amendment.
All right, two minutes
Well I asked the Chairman and Mr. Miller the differences between the two
Now, Mr. Miller, he has two minutes, and then we are going to cut this off, Ms. Green has been very, very patient.
You know this is, you know again Mr. Chairman, youre in such a rush to cut everything off.
I am not, I want to recognize a lady that has been waiting very patiently, and were under, weve got to recognize
But we ought to have an airing of the questions that are raised. These questions are we keep saying that Congress will never accept itwe are the Congress, ladies and gentlemen, and we are going to vote in a few minutes.
If the gentlemen will cease for a second. Now I have been very fair about this. Now I am going to recognize people. You have been on the floor talking about this, and I will recognize you for an additional two minutes. But then I am going to recognize Ms. Green and well go down the line and Ill come back to youd like to speak some more. This is a process that I think will work. But lets not dominate all the time and let other people air this issue also. Ms. Green I mean Mr. Miller youre recognized for two minutes.
Mr. Chairman I would just say once again, Mr. Romero-Barcelo has selectively read the text. Read line 9 and 10. Yes they would be an autonomous body politic which is recognized in Supreme Court decisions 1982. OK. Not incorporating the United States which is again recognized in Supreme Court decisions. And finally, the last on line 9, consistent with the Constitution of the United States.
I mean we want to pretend that these are some country bumpkins who arent sophisticated enough to understand what their situation would be under this amendment. They know exactly what the powers of the Congress of the United States are. We have mutual agreements with all kinds of entities. But they are mutual so long as Congress agrees. We change the laws with respect to the states on a daily basis. We just did it last night. OK. But their mutually agreed at except that we get were the big dog in that one. The citizenship. You just cant arbitrarily cut off citizenship. Its guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Again, a line of Supreme Court decisions from here to the end of the streetand it applies to Puerto Rico and the Court has said so, and it applies to territories. We grant citizenship, but you dont just get to take it away on the whim of Congress. You cant do that, youve got to have a basis for doing that. And so lets look at what the settled law is, lets look at what the Constitution is, and lets look at the language of the Amendment, because it envisions the powers of the Congress of the Constitution.
The good lady, Ms. Green, Dr. Green, youre recognized for five minutes.
Rep. Donna Christian-Green (D-VI)
Thank-you Mr. Chairman, thank-you for the opportunity to speak briefly in support of the amendment offered by my colleague, the ranking member Mr. Miller.
The process in which we will be voting is an important one and one that I want to see go forward. My only concern and what I see as my duty as we do move forward is to work with you, Mr. Chairman, my colleague from Puerto Rico and other members of this committee, to insure that the people of Puerto Rico have a process in which they will be able to choose freely and fairly the status which realizes their hopes and aspirations.
It would be a travesty, Mr. Chairman, for the people of Puerto Rico to choose an option based on misunderstanding the issues involved, or unlimited or lack of knowledge of how the proposed change would impact their lives. While all appearances are that the people of Puerto Rico will likely choose the status of statehood, this committee has an obligation and responsibility to ensure that the process we create is balanced, and provides fair treatment for each one of the options. Views of all of the representatives of the people Puerto Rico should be respected. The definitions of the various status options that they support must be included in HR 856 and adopted by this committee.
We do appreciate the continued leadership you have demonstrated, Mr. Chairman, on this important bill and on the process. We appreciate the changes that you have already incorporated into HR 856 which addresses some of the concerns of Puerto Ricans representing the different status options. In this regard I urge you and my colleagues to incorporate one further change and to support the amendment offered by the ranking member, Mr. Miller, which would define the option of commonwealth as defined by the representatives of the Popular Democratic Party.
I thank-you Mr. Chairman for giving me this time.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Thank-you Mr. Chairman.
I think the difficulty here is this Congress and this Committee is trying to write a ballot measure for and election to be held in Puerto Rico. Youve got three choices in that election and we are writing the language that people are going to choose by. The irony is whatever choice wins has to get a majority vote. I dont think most of us would have been elected to Congress if we had a majority vote in the primary, because with this there is no general election.
So the language here is really, the language about the second choice on the ballot, which is the commonwealth status. And it begins with that Puerto Rico should retain the commonwealth status, but when you look at the strikeout language and what Mr. Miller has added, the strikeout language essentially doesnt give commonwealth status any ability to be anything that we dont prescribe. They are essentially a total product of would be this committee, because we would be writing that language.
Whereas the Miller language as it adds it clarifies that it essentially gives them a broader range, but says if you read the bottom of the Miller language on the bottom of the page where it says, "The residents of Puerto Rico will be entitled to receive benefits under federal social programs equally with the residents of the several states contingent on equitable contributions from Puerto Rico as provided by law. Well we will be providing that law. So I think that there is a fairness here that allows the commonwealth status to essentially be a clear choice for Puerto Rico and it ought to be a good choice. And the difficulty as I say is that we are writing a ballot measure and weve got to write it very carefully. And I recommend that we support the Miller language.
Will the gentleman yield. In the Bill here that the as provided by statutethe equitable contribution provided by Puerto Rico. The way that they have represented this in Puerto Rico, continuously, is that the government of Puerto Rico would contribute to the treasury, if not this would be an imposition of income taxes in Puerto Rico. They would accept commonwealth would not if you were to amend this to say that the equitable that they would receive the same from all programs in Puerto Rico that they do in the several states and that they, equitable taxes would, to the people of Puerto Rico, would be paid for this, they would not accept it, because what they are telling the people of Puerto Rico is that the government would contribute, and thats ridiculous because why would the Congress be paying something to somebody contribute to part of it. They will say, whatever you are going to contribute deduct it from what I am going to give you. And you dont go round this kind of foolishness. And thats what, where the people are going to be mislead. This is where the people are going to be mislead. This is, language has been, manufactured by the commonwealth people to mislead the people.
Sam would you yield?
Yes, I yield.
Well again, I appreciate the position of my colleague but when it talks about, "equal contingent upon an equitable contribution," that equitable contribution may very well be when the Congress and President provides for the implementation of the plebiscite it may very well be taxes, ladies and gentlemen. And today we have this arrangement with the Indian nations of this country. They make a hundred million dollar contribution to the State of Connecticut voluntarily and they receive the services. And they dont pay the taxes. And they do that elsewhere. Now I dont think we would accept that arrangement for four million people.
I think we would come back and say, if you want the programs your going to pay the taxes. But you know we have people who run, you say, well they are going to represent in the election. We went through an election where a guy said, "read my lips." And low and behold it changed right after the election. So lets not pretend that we should write this based uponupon what is going to happen in a campaign. All of us know our opponents and our parties say things about us. We dont even recognize ourselves in a campaign. So you dont vote here based upon every minute how it is going to be represented in the campaign, because we cant control that. And again I think Mr. Farr makes an important point that this is as provided by law, by the powers of the Congress and the powers of the Constitution.
The gentlemans time is expired. The gentleman, Mr. Underwood.
Rep. Robert Underwood (D-GU)
Thank-you Mr. Chairman.
I have the fortunate opportunity to participate in the hearings in Puerto Rico. And it occurs to me that unfortunately weve gone down a very, what I consider to be, the wrong track on this particular item of definition. What it seems that we are arguing within the context of the campaign and confusing it with the actual movement, the actual choices in a proposed plebiscite.
When the legislation was first proposed I supported it with the idea that commonwealth be included. Now weve included commonwealth, it seems to me the people of Puerto Rico are pretty clear on what the options are. Their statehood, their independence with the free association permutation, and Commonwealth, whatever that entails now and all the possibilitiessome of which George has articulated. But, inevitably, it seems to me that we are arguing the course of the campaign in the context of this particular legislation.
I want very much to support the amendment by George because I think clearly it states, at least to me, that he is saying that all the things he is referring to are clearly subject to congressional approval and existing Constitutional arrangements. But even some of the wording in the context of his amendment is really not value neutral. And thats inevitably the result interspersing the process of the campaign, making campaign promises, arguing the case through what should be a relatively simple ballot. If it is a ballot for self-determination, its a ballot for a given direction of a given group of people. It is not a ballot for a particular construct for five years. It has to have that emphasis and I fear that the more we continue to debate this, I think the further we get away from that.
The gentleman if I can ask for the indulgence of the committee, I would like to limit debate on this amendment to at 12:30 if possible. Could you spread the time out a littlewould that be objectionable? I am going to close, I mean yah. The gentleman from Hawaii.
Yes, Mr. Chairman, I certainly have that in mind.
Mr. Chairman I have to speak, you and I, have the unique distinctionyou have the more unique distinctionyou have the more unique distinction of serving as a chair of a committee and you and I represent the last states to be admitted into the Union. Simultaneously, in all respects, that is not the exact case, but I am saying that Alaska and Hawaii were brought into the Union as a duo, if you will, at different time schedules, but it was an arrangement that was made. In our particular case, we were annexed in 1898. I mean this was part of the deal, Hawaii was part of the deal. We had a military government. We were a territory until 1959. We had a colonial statusthats what it is.
And in the end, I have spoken with the commonwealth supporters and I have told them, I cant support a colonial governmentand I dont want colonial governments in the rest of the world. How can I ask thatI think that is taking place in China right now. I think its taking place in other places. How can we have it in the United States and me support it. But, they have a right to make their presentation. I understand that. But I have said to them, if it doesnt pass the muster of the Congress, you can present anything you want, but if you know its going to lose then I think Ive written down to myselfthe bottom-line point is not to mislead the people of Puerto Rico it is what choosing status means. If you mean taxes and state taxes, dont say contributions to the government. Contributions I give contributions to local United Way, you know. You have got to say what you mean about it.
We have a distinct culture and history. We have an official language in Hawaiithe official language is Hawaiian and English. Theres no problem with any of these things. So I have read through it very, very carefully and wont repeat all things altered by mutual consent and get into those. Those are theological argumentsand we are here to legislate. So, I think there is, with respect to this amendment, I have concluded then that the amendment is a difference without a distinction and that the bill, it seems to me, then is the way to move this thing forward.
I thank the gentleman. The gentlemen from Minnesota:
Mr. Bruce Vento (D-MN)
Mr. Chairman, I support Millers amendment I think in the context of where we are, because this Bill has sought to define what the meanings of these three choices are. And I think therein lies the problem.
We know in politics if you have the opportunity to define someone or someone has the opportunity to define you, you run great risks because they are not likely to define you in the most positive terms. Nevertheless, I think that whatever good faith was used here, I mean we all agreedI mean I agreed and sponsored this Bill because I thought there ought to be a plebiscite and their ought to be a choice of these threeof these choices.
But the fact is that you cant get in and then argue that the definition you put on someone is more perfectthat your going to define what the what commonwealth is, unless they accept that particular definition. Now if thats the choice then this ought to be reduced to a simple phrase in each one of these instances without all this definition in terms of two pages for each. And let the political process then work in terms of what it means. But that is not what you have done. And so the consequences that I am sympathetic if I were defining my Republican colleagues, I would let them define themselves, if I chose to do it. You have chosen that task.
I think we owe it to the commonwealth group to take a definition that is somewhat neutral. I dont see that you can argue over the logic over the semantics of it. But the fact is they have a right to be defined and this is a definition that has been accepted before. And of coarse their was an assurance in the minds eye that this was going to be resolved. I would be happy to yield to my friend and colleague.
The language in this amendment. Yes, it is skewered in favor of commonwealth. What it does is it presents options which are not acceptable to Congress. It presents an option that is not acceptable to Congress. And we know it ahead of time. And we dont have to be unheard or being unfair to commonwealth, or unfair to statehood, or unfair to independence. No, we have to be fair to the people of Puerto Rico. And the most unfair act that this Congress could do, is to submit a definition that would be unacceptable and what would be unacceptable?
I understand and Id yield to the gentlemen from California briefly.
Essentially the embodiment of every part of this definition has been accepted by the Congress in some other relationship. And in every instance in almost every instance, it has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States. Whether its with Guam or what other entities. OK.
Will the gentleman yield? I heard the gentleman say that, Mr. Miller, say that several times, but no, there have been variations of this which are not exactly these. I dont know of anyone that says that they receive all federal benefits without paying Federal Income Taxes. I havent seen anyone who says that the Congress has gives up its authority by entering into a compact of mutual consent that is cannot be changed
That is not what this says Carlos
Anyway, just to reclaim my time I would just say you have chosen to make these definitions two page definitions. They are going to get into this debate. I dont, you know, as far as I know, even if you are a State, you have to kind of come up here at the tender mercies of the Congress. Sometimes the folks from Utah have let me know that or Alaska and/or Minnesota. So I would just suggest that their are differential treatments that do go on my necessity by terms of the nature of our responsibility. And I think that, I dont find this to be overstepping that in terms of this is a status, actually, that has existed since the 1950s
The gentlemen from Louisiana, then I hope that will be the last one.
Rep. WJ (Billy) Tauzin (R-LA)
Chairman I will try to be brief.
Let me first commend Carlos for the statements he made. What he is saying, in effect, is although Mr. Miller is offering a deal, a definition, it would be extraordinarily favorable to the people of Puerto Rico in commonwealth status, he has correctly said that the Congress of the United States would not buy such an arrangement an arrangement. Why? Because read what it says under the Miller Amendment. Congress gives up its power to change in any respect the relationship. It has to be done from here on out on the Miller Amendment by mutual consent.
Secondly, the Miller Amendment, contrary to the chairmans mark, Mr. Carlos has worked so diligently to move forward today; the Miller Amendment says that citizenship is indeed a nationality is statutory. Again reserving to Congress that relationship in a commonwealth status.
The Miller Amendment says that it is Constitutional. That all the rights, privileges, and immunities of the Constitution are equal in that citizenship arrangement under the Constitution. It says that also the level of federal benefits must be equal, but the level of contribution need not necessarily be so. The Miller Amendment says clearly that the level of federal benefits and taxes extended would be governed by federal law established by Congress. The Miller Amendment says automatically the benefits are equal, the taxes may not be.
There are huge differences between these two proposals. Carlos, you are so right, this would be a wonderful deal. Who wouldnt accept this kind of commonwealth status? Well you get all of the benefits automatically, but you dont necessarily have the same responsibilities. Where once you get it, it can never be changed by the Congress of the United States unless you agree to let it be changed. And where the citizenship under this Commonwealth agreement is as equal to statehood citizenship in all respects guaranteed by the Constitution. And yet you dont really have to enter into the statehood relationship. That is an extraordinary offer to the people of Puerto Rico and the commonwealth status.
If anything, it would be foolish not to vote for commonwealth if the Miller Amendment passed. It is a given you should accept it. It is an extraordinary deal. One Rhode Island and Louisiana would love I am sure and Alaska would deeply appreciate.
The bottom-line is that the Miller Amendment needs to be rejected because it will destroy this effort at Puerto Rican self-determination by creating a commonwealth offer this Congress cannot accept, and therefore it should be rejected. We ought to stick to the main Bill.
Question is on the Amendment
Mr. Chairman, if I might. Mr. Chairman, I would just state again that I appreciate the reading by the gentleman from Louisiana, but that is not what the language of the legislation says. And the gentleman knows that, because again nobody here wants to complete the sentences which are the qualifiers with respect to the consent of Congress. The doctrine of mutual consent is well settled in law.
One question for you please. Im not going to let the gentleman get away with that. I dont make statements to this committee that I know to be incorrect. On a point of personal privilege, Mr. Chairman Mr. Chairman on a point of personal privilege.
I take umbrage of that. All of us have opinions about what language means. And all of us have interpretations. I have given you my honest one. If you disagree say so Mr. Miller, but dont thats fine Mr. Miller I think I have the floor on a point of personal privilege. I dont think anyone of us has the right to ever say to another member that you have said to this committee something you know not to be true. I have never done that and will never do that and I take personal umbrage over it.
Well you not ought to be reading parts of paragraphs suggesting that thats what in fact what it means when you dont read the qualifying language.
Again, Mr. Chairman, if the Gentlemen from California wishes to differ with my interpretation he is free to do so, but he is not free to call into question the integrity of this member or any other member of this committee when it comes to our reading or interpretation of language. You are entitled to disagree with me. I welcome that Mr. Miller. We do it pretty frequently around here, you and I, but you are not entitled to call into question my integrity before this committee and I would not do so to you sir.
I think the gentleman is correct.
Mr. Chairman, if I might. Mr. Chairman I think that this debate because it points out a flaw in the underlying Bill. And that is the credibility of the process that I think almost every member of the committee supports to provide for the plebiscite. If one third of the choices does not have credibility and does not have the support of half of the people on the island in terms of their traditional political cultural history then we have flawed process.
Somehow it has been suggested here that this amendment is to sophisticated for the people of Puerto Rico. Those of us who have visited the island, those of use who have been involved in this discussion over the past twenty years, realize that this is one of the most sophisticated political constituencies on the face of the earth. These people take politics as serious as anything they do in their daily lives. It has been suggested because they said equitable contributions that it should be disqualified because they didnt say taxes. This is from people who have run with the public telling them we were for revenue enhancements or budget augmentations. Lets be square here folks. OK. Lets not hold this to a higher standard then we hold ourselves.
And for those who say, who so righteously say, that this should somehow be rejected because it would not be accepted by the Congress, let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, the moment of truth will not come when Puerto Rico presents it papers for commonwealth status. The moment of truth, and youve all heard it in the private conversations of this institution, the moment of truth will come when they present their membership as a State. Thats when the moment of truth.
When you say that this will somehow not be acceptable, I bet you can get even money everywhere in the Congress, that statehood would not be acceptable. So lets not hold this to a different test either. We all know the controversy surrounding the questions of statehood and Puerto Rico. And they have been there for far too long. This plebiscite ought to have a process with credibility, with the people who will have to engage in the process of voting.
Thank-you Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank-you Mr. Chairman for the debate on this matter because I do believe it is a core item.
I will thank the gentleman, I will thank everybody who participated in this debate.
I would like to suggest one thing. When I got involved in this with Bobby Lagomarsino, I am trying to solve a very dark spark in our history. And I have done the best that I can to try and make a bill that I think would be acceptable, can move, and can become a reality and solve a very dark spot in our history of America. And this is all I am doing. I can listen to both sides of this debate and can understand the emotions of the three parties.
But really this is not about political parties, commonwealth, statehood, independence, it is about the people of Puerto Rico. And I have one rule in this committee, and all of you know it, I try to listen to the person that is elected from the area that represents those people. And our governor, our delegate, does an excellent job outnumbered many, many times. But that is his State, that is his territory, that is his commonwealth, that is his independent nation. And I think we owe it to him to listen to his position. If he is wrong he wont be with us four years from now. (He lucky he get elected four years) If he is right, he will be with us.
But what we cannot do is not go forth with the process. As I think it would be a dark day on this Congress in which we serve in. So I am urging a "No" vote on the Miller Amendment, and I am asking any "Aye" votes to move this process forward. And I do ask for a vote. All in favor of signify by saying "Aye". All opposed signify by saying "No". The "Nos" appear to have it. The role call has been asked for. The clerk will record.
Mr. Young (No)
Mr. Tauzin (No)
Mr. Hansen (No)
Mr. Saxton (No)
Mr. Gallegly (No)
Mr. Doolittle (No)
Mr. Gilchrest (No)
Mr. Calvert (No)
Mr. Pombo (No)
Mrs. Cubin (No)
Mrs. Chenoweth (No)
Mrs. Linda Smith (No)
Mr. Radanovich (No)
Mr. Jones (No)
Mr. Shadegg (No)
Mr. Ensign (No)
Mr. Bob Smith (No)
Mr. Cannon (No)
Mr. Brady (No)
Mr. Hill (No)
Mr. Schaffer (No)
Mr. Gibbons (No)
Mr. Crapo (No)
Mr. Miller (Aye)
Mr. Markey (Aye)
Mr. Rahall (No)
Mr. Vento (Aye)
Mr. Kildee (No)
Mr. DeFazio (Aye)
Mr. Faleomavaega (Aye)
Mr. Abercrombie (No)
Mr. Pallone (Aye)
Mr. Dooley (No)
Mr. Romero-Barcelo (No)
Mr. Hinchey (Aye)
Mr. Farr (Aye)
Mr. Kennedy (No)
Mr. Adam Smith (No)
Mr. Delahunt (Aye)
Mr. John (No)
Ms. Green (Aye)
Mr. Kind (No)
On this vote the "yeas" are ten and the "nays" are thirty-two.
And the amendment fails. Are their any further amendments? If not the
I have an en bloc? AmendmentHR 856. It has been distributed and I think everyone should have one in their files.
The Gentleman is recognized for five minutes but make it shorter for that.
Mr. Chairman, this is an amendment which seeks to make some changes in the independence option. The independence party representatives have been asking that they be given something in terms of economic and programmatic assistance levels and they also wanted something regarding the trade, the pre-trade. However, the amendment does not address the issue of free-trade. It leaves it as it is right now. But it does address the issue of economic and programmatic assistance and the status of United States Military Forces. The amendment would strike everything after line seventeen and before line twentyand would insert the following: "Economic
Will the gentleman yield? To my knowledge their is no objection to the amendment and if their is no objection to the amendment, all in favor signify by saying "Aye". All opposed signify by saying "No". The "Ayes" have it. The Amendment is agreed to.
Are their any other amendments? No further amendmentsthe question is on the Young amendment. All those in favor signify by saying "Aye". All those opposed signify by saying "No". The "Ayes" appear to have it and the "Ayes" do have it and the amendment is agreed to.
And now the Chairman will entertain a motion to favor report the Bill. The question of reporting the Bill as amended, all those in favor signify by saying "Aye". All those opposed signify by saying "No". The "Ayes" appear to have it and the "Ayes" do have it and roll call vote has been asked for. The clerk will take the Roll
The clerk will report the results
On this vote there were 43 "Ayes" and 1 "Nay".
And the Bill is agreed to and reported to the House.
And I want to thank all of you, especially you Governor, for all of your work