COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES TUESDAY,
JULY 15,1998 9:30 a.m.
SH-216 Hart Senate Office Building
HEARING TO RECEIVE TESTIMONY ON H.R. 856, TO PROVIDE A PROCESS LEADING TO FULL SELF-GOVERNMENT FOR PUERTO RICO AND S. 472, TO PROVIDE FOR REFERENDA IN WHICH THE RESIDENTS OF PUERTO RICO MAY EXPRESS DEMOCRATICALLY THEIR PREFERENCES REGARDING THE POLITICAL STATUS OF THE TERRITORY, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
(Transcript Copyright © 1998 Puerto Rico Herald)
Honorable Carlos A. Romero- Barcelo, Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner.
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Representative Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY)
Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT)
Senator Al D'Amato (R-NY)
Jeffrey Farrow, co-chair of the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico.
See Transcript of First Session, 7/14/98
P R O C E E D I N G S
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: It's the second day of our hearings on pending legislation, with regard to self-determination for Puerto Rico, covering H.R. 856, to Provide a Process Leading to Full self-government for Puerto Rico and Senate Bill 472, to Provide for Referenda in which the Residents of Puerto Rico May Express Democratically Their Preferences Regarding the Political Status of the Territory, and for Other Purposes.
We moved the hearing a half hour ahead to accommodate various members who had other committee meetings, and I would call to the dais at this time the Honorable Carlos A. Romero- Barcelo, Puerto Rican resident and commissioner. Good morning.
And I would ask that he be joined by the Honorable Luis Gutierrez. Good morning.
Also, Mr. Jose Serrano. Good morning, Congressman. And the Honorable Nydia M. Velazquez. Good morning.
And we've got a couple of absent senators. I don't see them. Senator Lieberman intends to be here. Senator D'Amato will definitely be here.
We also have an administration witness which we will call after this panel, Jeffrey Farrow, co-chair of the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico.
Lady and gentleman, you've had an opportunity to participate, or at least hear a good deal of presentations that were made by the various individuals yesterday. I think as a consequence I do appreciate the fact that you accommodated us to accommodate the visitors from Puerto Rico, so that we didn't have to change their travel schedules by agreeing to be on the second day, because it was pretty difficult to try and get everybody on the first day.
So, with that I would call on the Honorable Carlos Romero, a Puerto Rican commissioner, to proceed, and we look forward to your statement.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, and good morning.
Chairman, I want to thank you and the committee for scheduling this hearing and the discussion of the Puerto Rican Status Bill S. 472, and it's companion legislation the H.R. 856. It's a real privilege to be here today, and to take part in this historic process.
The unresolved dilemma of Puerto Rico's status is the single most important long-term issue of concern to all Puerto Ricans. It permeates every aspect of our political and economic life, and it holds our future hostage.
I spent 33 years most of my adult life in struggling to achieve equality for the people of Puerto Rico. And 1998 marks the centennial anniversary of the end of the Spanish-American War, and the beginning of Puerto Rico's status as an unincorporated territory of the United States. It marks 100 years of congressional indifference to the Puerto Rican dream of political equality. And it marks a century through which the democratic rights of the people of Puerto Rico have been ignored, unhappily, I may add, as a result of our own acquiescence, and our own inaction and acceptance, of a relationship which denies democracy to almost 4 million U.S. citizens.
But 1998 could sound a great note. This centennial year offers the people of Puerto Rico and Congress an historic opportunity to undo the unequal relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico; and to extend to the U.S. citizens of the island the full rights and guaranteed citizenship, through the exercise of the right of self-determination. As 472 and H.R. 856 have what is needed to accomplish this historic mission, by providing definitions, the detail, the privileges and limitations of each status option, Congress introduces a truth in labeling policy that is essential if the process of self-determination is to have meaning and legitimacy.
For nearly five decades an honest debate on status has been frustrated by misrepresentations of the truth about the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the nature of the U.S. citizenship bestowed on the residents of the island.
In 1950, when Congress passed the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act it authorized the people of Puerto Rico to draw up a constitution, an develop a local self-government, although a by-product of this process was the creation of the so-called Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The Federal Relations Act did not alter the island status as an unincorporated territory, subject to the authority and plenary powers of Congress under the territorial quails of the U.S. Constitution.
Congressional intention was clear. The purpose of the legislation was to give a new name to the political relationship, and allow the local government to be set up under a constitution, in lieu of a federal statute, until the issue of the status was resolved.
In other words, local government, the executive, the judiciary, and the legislator were set up in Puerto Rico under the Jones Act. And what Congress did is say, instead of having the Jones Act, you set up a government more or less the same way it's in the Jones Act and establish the rights that are there in the Jones Act and their constitution; and we'll take a look at the constitution. If we like it, we'll approve it. And then you can go ahead and we'll repeal the Jones Act, and substitute it with your constitution. That's all that happened.
A Commonwealth architect, Luis Munoz Marin, understood this. In testimony during a congressional hearing on March 4, 1950, he acknowledged that the Federal Relations Act did not change the fundamental conditions of Puerto Rico as to non-incorporation, and only permitted Puerto
Rico to develop its own self-government. Although, he did not expressly use the phrase "local self-government", and this is where the whole charade comes around.
He obviously understood that the word local was implied. However, when the Popular Party and the leaders of the Popular Part sold the Commonwealth status of the people of Puerto Rico, the sales pitch did not reflect the reality of our circumstances as a territory. Instead, Commonwealth was hailed as a treaty; a bilateral pack that could only be altered by mutual consent.
We all know that Congress cannot delegate, or refuse to exercise its constitutional powers forever and ever, or deprive or deny other congresses to exercise that authority that is granted to Congress by the Constitution. We all know that. That's a basic.
Under this rubric the island's territorial status was called Commonwealth in English; but in Spanish it was called Estado Libre Asociado, which literally translated means, free associated state. But the notion that Puerto Rico supposedly signed a bilateral pack with the United States, and that it really was a free associated state, implied a degree of sovereignty that Puerto Rico never possessed, and much less exercised.
For that reason, Governor Munoz Marin realized that he could not use the literal translation of Estado Libre Asociado, and decided to use the word commonwealth, which means nothing more than a body politic.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government became a part of this misrepresentation, and in 1953 it notified the United Nations that it would no longer submit reports regarding the status of Puerto Rico, because they claimed that the island had achieved a full measure of self-government and administration under the new constitutional arrangement.
We all know that was a fiction. The unvarnished truth is that Puerto Rico's status never changed. To this day, the economic, social, and political affairs of the people of Puerto Rico are controlled and influenced by a government which is in no way politically accountable to us, the people of Puerto Rico. And I am the evidence of that.
Here in Congress I represent 3,800,000 U.S. citizens, six times more than any other representative, and we have no senators. And I cannot vote -- and Puerto Ricans may not vote in presidential elections. And we have no body representation in Congress. We proudly march off to war under the stars and stripes, but we may not vote for the president who calls us to arms.
Landmark legislation status comes before Congress, but the sole, duly elected representative of the nearly 4 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico has no vote when the legislation reaches the floor of either chamber.
Inexcusably, the deception continues. In English Puerto Rico is called the Commonwealth, alluding to the likes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And inferring that Puerto Rico has been incorporated into the United States, on its residents enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those citizens in the states of Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
In Spanish the island is described as a Estado Libro Asociado, which translates at the free associated state of Puerto Rico. This nomenclature creates the illusion that the island is an independent country, which enjoys equal statute with the United States in the community of nations.
In one death rhetorical flourish, Commonwealth appears to be all things to Puerto Ricans, while failing to secure the elemental right, or self-determination upon which our independence, or our incorporation as a state, or even our status a really free associated state, depends.
Proponents of Commonwealth forestall any movement on status, by maintaining their charade in the poll booth. For example, in a 1993 non-binding plebiscite on Puerto Rican status, the definition of Commonwealth offered by its proponents describe a status structure that simply does not exist; and this fantasy of an enhanced, and by the way, unconstitutional Commonwealth, was pitted against the immutable definitions of separate sovereignty and statehood. Such word play makes a mockery of the process of self-determination, and it puts at risk one of the things Puerto Ricans value most for ourselves and our children, and that is our standing as U.S. citizens.
For half a century Commonwealth advocates have assured Puerto Ricans that their U.S. citizenship is irrevocable. That may be true for the present generation, because our citizenship will not be revoked without our consent by Congress, but it is not a heritage that necessarily will transfer irrevocably to future generations of Puerto Ricans, unless we are a state.
There is a definite geographical discrimination. Residents in Puerto Rico -- even those that have constitutional citizenship do not have the same rights in Puerto Rico as they have in the rest of the nation.
The truth is that our statute -- and ours is a statutory citizenship. And the Popular Party will have you eliminate that from the definition, as though we cannot tell the truth to the people of Puerto Rico. Where do we derive our citizenship from? An act of 1917, the Jones Act. It does not have the same staying power as a constitutional citizenship. And except for naturalized citizens, the Constitution only guarantees citizenship to individuals born in one of the states or naturalized.
The people of Puerto Rico deserve straight talk, and only Congress can put an end to decades of double talk. This is why it is imperative that any legislation status contain explicit definitions of each status option. Both S. 472 and H.R. 856 adhere to this principle, providing accurate and constitutionally sound definitions. And though the definitions in the bills differ slightly in the degree of detail, they're compatible in their substance.
Senate 472 is a thoughtful status-mutual legislation, that addresses all the elements necessary for the U.S. citi8zens in Puerto Rico to exercise self-determination, and to see their decision implemented responsibly, with planning and care. In sports terminology, S. 472 is legislation that can go the distance, and so is H.R. 856. The rest is up to Congress.
With reference of H.R. 856, in terms of the definition, is that at least the definition of Commonwealth has been ironed out between both parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the House.
Congress must reject the arguments of those who will deny the American citizens in Puerto Rico the right to vote on status, because they fear the island residents will choose that statehood. That's why the object to the definitions. Because they know that when the people of Puerto Rico are confronted with the truth about Commonwealth, they will reject Commonwealth and choose statehood.
They must reject the native sentiment of the Hispanic heritage of Puerto Rico disqualifies our American citi8zens from equal participation in the American dream; and they must reject obstruction tactics to impose historically unprecedented language, or super majority requirements on the Puerto Rican electorate (in) in order for it to petition for statehood.
The American citizens in Puerto Rico are patriots who have risked life and limb for this democracy. Since 1917, when citizenship was extended to island residents, more than 400,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, beginning with World War an estimated 197,000 Puerto Ricans have fought in every military engagement the country has faced during this century.
Forty-eight thousand Puerto Ricans served in Vietnam and during the Korean conflict; 61,000 troops sent to the front by Puerto Rico outnumber the forces of 32 states in absolute numbers, and were second only to Hawaii when measured on a per capita basis.
It is a sad irony that the language or ethnicity of Puerto Ricans is irrelevant, when they are called to defend democracy; when it becomes a causal arm when they want to participate as equals in a democracy that they have helped secure. We have been equal in war and death; we have not been equal in life and peace.
Finally, Congress must turn a deaf ear to the economic arguments raised against Puerto Rican self-determination. To justify colonialism because a territory fails to thrive as well as the states in a colonial economy, is the ultimate Catch 22. The arguments that statehood will be too costly, locally and nationally, and the federal taxes will destroy the local economy, are arguments that were raised most recently against Alaska and Hawaii.
Similar objections were voiced in protest against the inclusion of at least 20 other states who have managed to thrive since their incorporation. Puerto Rico will thrive as well, because it has outstanding human resources, and the assets for growth. These assets include a strong manufacturing base, skilled workers, many of whom are bilingual and experienced in the use of high tech equipment; it's strategic location and the tourist appeal of its scenic beauty and historic landmarks.
If the members of Congress want the territory's economy to grow further and faster, they need to liberate Puerto Rico's economic and political future, from the terminal uncertainty of its unresolved territorial status. They must pave the way for Puerto Rico to become a partner, or go its own way.
(Unclear) per diem seize the day. "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven", to quote Ecclesiastes. And after a century of debate, now is the time for Congress to pass status legislation, and now is the season for the people of Puerto Rico to exercise democracy from the mental right of self-determination. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. I don't know whether that response is from the quote from Ecclesiastes, but we better leave well enough alone.
I've been asked to accommodate Nydia Velasquez, because of a hearing over in the House, and I recognize other members have hearings as well. I'll try and do the best I can. Please proceed.
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: Thank you very much.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: And you notice we have a red light on, which means that Carlos went a little over, but I think he finished his statement. Please proceed.
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for accommodating my schedule.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I wonder if you could pull the microphone up a little closer.
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for accommodating my schedule.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before your distinguished committee. This hearing addresses a very important legislative and constitutional matter that will have historic impact on the lives of all Puerto Ricans.
Mr. Chairman, I think that we all can agree that the people of Puerto Rico must be given the right to self-determination. Unfortunately, neither S. 472 nor H.R. 856 accomplishes this. These bills are the product of a flawed legislative process that was designed to produce a very specific result. They were written without consulting all the parties that have a very real interest in its outcome.
Proponents of these measures will try to say that this is about self-determination. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, these one-sided and biased proposals favor Puerto Rican statehood. They were written by the party that supports statehood in a way that promotes statehood, without consulting all the participants in this very, very sensitive process.
Under these bills Puerto Ricans will be given the choice between statehood Commonwealth status or separate sovereignty. Yet, the Commonwealth options does not even guarantee citizenship. Why was citizenship not statutory back in 1990, when the House voted for this bill? I do not understand what happened since 1990.
The authors of this legislation have said that our citizenship is statutory. Simply put, this means that our citizenship can be taken away. Tell that to the widows of men who fought had died in foreign wars, so that citizenship of all Americans will be guaranteed.
Mr. Chairman, tell that to my uncle who fought valiantly in Korea for my colleagues, and for me, and for all Americans everywhere. Furthermore, if the people of Puerto Rico were to choose Commonwealth status, the bills will require further plebiscites until either statehood or separate sovereignty wins. This double standard applied to Commonwealth shows how the deck is stacked in favor of statehood. Under those conditions, not even the most forceful defender of Commonwealth status will go out for it.
Many people forget that the regional version of the House bill did not even include a Commonwealth option. The party that supports Commonwealth status had no input in the drafting of these bills, and have been repeatedly shut out of the process.
Amazingly, the president of the Commonwealth party learned about the bill's definition of Commonwealth from a reporter. In fact, the statehood party had to rewrite the Commonwealth definition after a poll in a major Puerto Rica newspaper showed that 75 percent of Puerto Ricans supported inclusion of a fair and balanced Commonwealth option, which these bills lack.
Mr. Chairman, it is an affront up to democratic process that the definition for Commonwealth status was written by the very party that opposes, like allowing Republicans to decide who could appear on a democratic ballot. Five years ago the people of Puerto Rico held a plebiscite on this issues, and chose to maintain they're current status.
This is a situation that the losers in that contest do not seem willing to accept, yet the outcome was an important one. It reaffirmed the permanent United States citizenship of the people of Puerto Rico that is guaranteed under the Constitution. It acknowledged the bilateral nature of US-Puerto Rico relationship. It confirmed the autonomous status of Puerto Rico, which can only be changed by mutual consent.
Supporters of this legislation are rejecting each and every one of these arguments when they say that citizenship can only be protected under statehood. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and we are proud to be American citizens. We do not a plebiscite to prove that we are Americans any more than people of Massachusetts or Virginia do.
These bills are not the result of a democratic process. They do not define all the choices to the satisfaction of the very people who will participate in this plebiscite. By defeating these bills we will be sending a message that we truly honor the idea of self-definition for the people of Puerto Rico.
Mr. Chairman, I urge you not to be fooled by the arguments of the other side. This legislation is a vote for statehood, not a vote for self-determination. At this time, I must unfortunately excuse myself. As ranking democratic member of the House Small Business Committee, I must attend a hearing this morning, in which the Small Business Administration will testify. However, in the coming months I look forward to continuing this dialogue with my Senate colleagues. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Congresswoman. I might just ask do you have a specific recommendation or preference? We've heard from Carlos Romero, who spoke very eloquently on his particular point of view. And you have been critical of both bills.
Do you have a particular specific recommendation on what you would like to see done to determine and resolve self-determination for Puerto Rico?
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: I would love to see that this is an open process, where all the parties involved will participate in the definition of each formula. I don't have a political preference as to what is the best status for Puerto Rico. I think I do -- I will not say to the people of Puerto Rico that this is the best status for them, I will allow for the people of Puerto Rico for themselves to make that choice in an open process. But this is not an open process, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: One other follow-up question, if I may. And it's the issue of definitions. And as we heard throughout the hearing yesterday, there's a difficulty in reaching consensus on definition. And we pretty much resolved to recognize that Congress would set the definition. And then it would be up to the people of Puerto Rico to either accept or reject it in a referendum vote.
Would you favor that?
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: I will favor that -- there is a consultation with each of the political parties that will be involved in this process. But I don't think that there has been a consultation with each one of them.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I guess my point is relatively narrow. Assuming we can't get consensus with all of them, which I think is probably realistic, the suggestion is that Congress would have to come up with the definitions, and then the people of Puerto Rico would either accept or reject it. And I see some heads waving this way and this way.
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: Mr. Chairman, the problem is that it is well known that one of the three parties has been very much involved in drafting the definitions with the members of Congress and the members of Senate, and I don't think that is fair. And that is the perception in Puerto Rico. And if this happens this way, many people in Puerto Rico will opt to boycott any referendum. And if we don't have the broad participation of the people in Puerto Rico, because they have the perception that this has not been a democratic process, and a fair one, then I don't think that then we will be able to resolve the self-determination question.
We need for the people of Puerto Rico to feel that this is a democratic process that is a fair one, and that is not the perception at this point.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, I appreciate your statement, and I will advise you the record will be open for 10 days. And again, I would like to reiterate what I consider to be the harsh reality, is as and if we proceed that Congress will have to come up with the definitions, and it will be up to the people of Puerto Rico to either accept or reject that in an referendum form.
I wish you a good day, and thank you for your statement.
CONGRESSWOMAN VELAZQUEZ: Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I'm going to try and accommodate those members who have committee hearings and other commitments, and I believe Senator D'Amato is one of them, but there may be others. Can you share with me your own particular time priorities, gentlemen?
SENATOR D'AMATO: Well, I have an Appropriations meeting 10-ish or so.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, why don't whoever has to go jump first. Senator D'Amato.
SENATOR D'AMATO: If I might, Mr. Chairman. And let me ask the indulgence of my great friend and colleague, Congressman Serrano and Congressman Gutierrez. And a friend of long, long standing, let me commend former governor and a great representative from Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero-Barcelo, whose wife happens to come from the adjoining village where I grew up and where I was raised, Baldwin Long Island. And so we have been friends for many, many years. And my great friend, Senator Lieberman.
I'm going to ask that my full statement, Mr. Chairman -- because time is of the essence, and I know my colleagues have places to go, and I do have to chair a hearing in a few minutes.
But, I have to tell you --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Senator D"Amato, you're going to make a statement, right?
SENATOR D'AMATO: Yes.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: All right. I just wanted to make sure.
SENATOR D'AMATO: Yes. I have to tell you --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: prepare us all for what was oncoming, and I'm going to be stepping out for just a moment. I have some constituents in the back room. But Senator Landrieu, who would be kind enough, so please continue.
SENATOR D'AMATO: I want you to stay, if you could, Mr. Chairman, for 15 seconds.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I'm going to stay for as much as I can, Senator D'Amato.
SENATOR D'AMATO: You have demonstrated great courage, great leadership in bringing us to this point. And let's understand the political reality, and the currents, and the undercurrents that exist.
There are some of our colleagues who are adamantly opposed to even considering and giving people the right of self-determination. I am proud to say that we have in your leadership a man of great courage, who's taking this forward, because you feel it is important to give people that basis right, the people of Puerto Rico, of self-determination.
What the definitions may or may not be, I believe you have accurately stated. It's something that the Congress, after listening to all -- and I wish the congresswoman was here, because indeed the various political parties have an opportunity to put forth to this committee what they believe the language can and should be, in terms of fairly stating what Commonwealth might be; and obviously I would hope that people would understand what citizenship in being the 51st state of this country would put forth.
And so, I reject that argument. And indeed, you have opened the way again by holding these hearings -- and this is not the first day -- and extending yourself and the committee, so that all of those interested can come forward and participate. And I see a great statesman, leader, citizen leader now, Governor Ferre who is with us. And it's been my privilege to visit and to be with him, and know the passion that he shares.
And I think that all can come to one conclusion that the right for people to determine for themselves, freely, fairly, with a proposition that sets forth what the conditions are as it relates to Commonwealth, and obviously giving people an opportunity to vote for independence, if that's what they want, and/or statehood, is something that all of us should be supportive -- Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative -- if we believe in the values of this country.
And indeed, you have heard the governor so eloquently talk about the sacrifices made in defense of this country by the people of Puerto Rico when our nation has had times of conflict.
And so I can only say to you, Mr. Chairman, I commend you. I know that this is not easy. The stewardship of this important undertaking is something that weighs heavily on, and that you have responded as no other chairman. And so, I feel very strongly that self-determination is something that all of us should stand up for. That's what this is about. And I thank my colleagues for yielding me this time, and I thank the chairman. I commend him.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Senator D'Amato.
Thank you very much. Senator D'Amato, chairman of the Banking Committee, has another hearing.
Again, I would try an accommodate whomever might be inclined to be under a time frame.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I'll yield to Congressman Serrano, because he was here first.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Congressman, would you please go ahead, and would you just excuse me for a moment. I've got to go around the corner. Senator Landrieu, would you continue to conduct the --
SENATOR LANDRIEU: I'll be happy to take his place for a few minutes.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator.
I come before you today, in very, very, very strong support of S. 472 and its companion bill in the House. I was a prime co-sponsor, original sponsor of that bill. I lobbied for it. I was glad to see its passage.
I think that this bill and this whole process is important, because on July 25th of this year the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States will be 100 years old. If you add to that the 405 years that Puerto Rico was under control of the Spanish Government, you will understand that Puerto Rico has not either been part of a country, or an independent nation for over 505 years.
To me there is no doubt that Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. I come to you in a very unique situation. I was born in the colony, and now I'm a member of the colonial power's Congress. That's not an easy situation to deal with on a daily basis. I can handle all other issues as they pertain to my job in Congress as to my role as a Puerto Rican in this society, but I have very difficult time waking up every morning, when I think of the island where I was born or the community where I reside, to understand that the country that my children were born in holds a colony in the Caribbean, the island that I was born in.
And I believe that this bill begins a process by which we can end that. Some will tell you this bill favors statehood. That is absolutely not true, because that makes an assumption I cannot make; which is that if Puerto Rico asks for statehood, Congress is ready to grant it.
Now, we know that 100 members of the Senate and 435 members of the House will deliberate on that issue when that time comes. There is nothing in this bill that guarantees statehood. Statehood is the more difficult of the decisions for this Congress to make, I imagine, and therefore there is no guarantee.
I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is inaction, and the risk of having my children who were born here, and my grandchildren, one already who is five years old, discussing this status issue, this colonial status issue, 15, 20, 25 years from now.
Now, let me be clear, because there's a question that's always asked of every Puerto Rican: What are you for? Well, I may be the leader or the creator of a new movement, which is not for something, but is definitely against something. I am with every energy of my body against the present colonial status. Independence is acceptable to me. Statehood is acceptable to me. And I think that the independence is a dignified option for the people of Puerto Rico, and a dignified solution for Congress, and I think statehood is a dignified option for both Puerto Rico and the United States.
That's a decision we should make jointly. But the present situation is unacceptable. In fact, if I had my way, Senator, I would not include commonwealth is an option. Since I believe that commonwealth is unfair, is unequal, and isn't colonial in nature, I don't feel good as a member of Congress offering an unjust solution, or an unjust option. But we knew that in order to get a bill we had to accommodate some folks, who are still not happy because they didn't get the option written the way they wanted.
Now, everyone in Puerto Rico wants change. Let me explain what I mean. Everyone speaks about a vote that was taken in 1993 with a so-called commonwealth option beat out slightly statehood. It is important to note that statehood on that ballot was what we know statehood to be. Independence on that ballot was what we know independence to be.
Commonwealth was a wish list of what commonwealth could possibly be in the future; therefore no one in 1993 voted for the current commonwealth status, and no one is willing to accept it now. Congress should not either.
This bill provides this opportunity. Move it along. Get it passed. Bring it to conference. Work it out, and let the people of Puerto Rico have a vote. And then we in Congress can commemorate, celebrate, observe, or whatever we want to call this 100th anniversary of this relationship, by moving towards the democratic principle of self-determination.
In addition, there is an amendment that I introduced in the House in which Senator D'Amato supports in the Senate, which would allow those of us born on the island, and who live outside the island to participate in this vote.
We did this because we believe that this is a vote for all the children of the colony, not just those who live -- this is not a vote for governor, this is not a vote for mayor of my hometown. This is a one time vote for this kind of a situation. Unfortunately, a little parliamentary miniscule in the House defeated that amendment. Senator D'Amato still supports it.
Let me conclude by saying this to you. As a member of Congress I join our colleagues in both houses on a daily basis in promoting democracy throughout the world. Not far from the island of Puerto Rico, this country spends a lot of energy asking for "fair and democratic elections". And yet, Puerto Rico has never had an opportunity to determine its relationship with the United States
Commonwealth, the colonial status, should be unacceptable to every member of both bodies. Independence is a dignified option. Statehood is a dignified option for both. Let us move, and us not celebrate another anniversary with a colonial subject in the Caribbean. And I thank you.
SENATOR LANDRIEU: Thank you, Mr. Congressman.
Thank you for that statement, and our ranking member has joined us. So I'm going to turn it over to Senator Dale Bumpers from Arkansas. And Dale, I've got to slip out in just a moment, and the chairman will return. Senator Lieberman I think is scheduled for brief remarks.
But let me just say before I have to leave. That I wanted to reiterate what Senator Alfonse D'Amato said, and I don't know if the chairman is within listening. But, to make it clear to everyone here -- and I'm sure it is from the response of the audience -- that for anyone that says their opinions haven't been taken into consideration, that is what this hearing is about.
Any definitions you could present today. The chairman has given hours and hours, and really trying to resolve this issue, so that the people of Puerto Rico have a clear choice, and real choice. So any definitions are acceptable.
And I know the Congresswoman has left, but I hope that no one would go back to say that they have been excluded from the process. Obviously, these doors aren't locked. Anyone can walk up here, and these microphones are free.
So, I hope at the end, whatever it is, that people would understand that we have done as this committee, particularly with the chairman, as much as we can to consider everyone's position, and opinions, and definitions.
So with that, Dale, could we ask Senator Lieberman for his remarks, and then I'm going to slip out.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I like the sound of that -- to be with you this morning.
Mr. Chairman, if I may, I want to begin with a quote from Nelson Miles, major-general, commanding U.S. Army, July 1898 to the people of the island of Puerto Rico.
"In the prosecution of the war against the kingdom of Spain by the people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Puerto Rico. They come bearing the banner of freedom. They bring you the fostering arm of a nation of free people, who's greatest power is in injustice and humanity to all those living within its fold."
Mr. Chairman, in this session of Congress, 100 years, almost to the day, after that statement was made by an American army officer to the people of Puerto Rico, we have the opportunity to make real the promise of justice and liberty that Major General Miles spoke to the people of Puerto Rico that day.
As has been said by those who've preceded me, this is all about principle. This is about the principle of self-determination. This is about the principle of the equality of citizens of the United States; 3.8 million of whom happened to live in Puerto Rico do not enjoy equality under the laws of the United States.
Mr. Chairman, as we consider the status of Puerto Rico, it seems to me there is an out-of-synch quality to it. How it managed to persist in this status all of these years, particularly in the period of time after the second world war, when empires were collapsing, when new nation states were being created. In the period of time after the Cold War, when nations that had lived under the communist empire broke free, and established their own independence.
In some measures, self-determination is the most powerful principle in world politics today. And it is incidentally a principle that we in the United States have quite rightly advocated, defended, in fact, fought for. And yet, by a strange twist of history, a kind of irony of failing to apply these principles within our own country, we have denied that opportunity for self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.
I know that there are arguments against this. Some make very mundane, worldly, political arguments, try to calculate what the political affiliation of members of Congress elected for Puerto Rico might be. Surely, that kind of consideration must fall before the overriding principle of self-determination and equality of American citizens.
Some talk about the difficulty of defining the various options in the proposed plebiscite. We struck home with definition in almost every measure that we considered here in Congress, and we've tackled hundreds that are much more complicated and difficult than the question of definition that we have before us.
But as difficult as it may be, surely it falls before the power of the principles of self-determination and equality. Some worry about the cost to the taxpayers of the United States, of one or another of the options that may be chosen in the plebiscite for the people of Puerto Rico, our fellow citizens.
Not inconsequential, but surely in the end this has not been a country in which we have calculated the cost of providing people with equality, with the liberty and justice that General Miles promised to the people of Puerto Rico.
So, I think this is ultimately a matter of principle. Puerto Ricans are subject to both the laws of Congress and the decisions of the executive and judicial branch of the United States Government, without any real participation in that decisionmaking process. A 3.8 million fellow Americans living on Puerto Rico have fought valiantly for, many died for the liberties ironically that we all enjoy, and they don't enjoy fully.
Mr. Chairman, this is not, as you know, a partisan measure. The fact is that Republican and Democratic platforms have supported Puerto Rican self-determination since Harry S. Truman was president. Senators on both sides of the aisle, members of Congress, or the House on both sides of the aisle, have joined in senators having co-sponsoring S. 472, just as both Republican and Democratic congressman joined together in passing the companion bill, H.R. 856 in March.
This is the fourth successive Congress to consider the matter before your committee. I hope honestly it will be the last, the last to consider it in the form of authorizing the people of Puerto Rico to have the opportunity to determine their own future.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I know the time in this session is short. We're counting the days. The controversies are great. But sometimes a matter of principle comes before us that we have the opportunity to do something about, and I plead with you to do everything you can, Republicans and Democrats on this committee, to bring S.472 to the floor, so that we can pass it, and make real for these 3.8 million Americans the promise of equality and self-determination that is so fundamental to our great democracy. I thank you.
SENATOR BUMPERS (D-AR): Congressman Gutierrez.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR BUMPERS: We're very pleased to have you with us this morning.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I'm pleased to be here.
I'd like my statement to be included in the record.
SENATOR BUMPERS: Without objection, it will be entered.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Thank you. I'd like to make a couple of quick points. I'm not going to read from my prepared statement, although I think it's a rather good one. I just want to make some points.
Everything we've heard here you would assume that all of the Puerto Ricans, the tens of thousands of them, that have served in the Armed Forces are all for statehood. And that therefore they have served on the Armed Forces of the United States of America; therefore they should be given statehood, because that's what they want.
Well, that's obviously not been the case. My father served in 1953 and 1954 in the Army. He didn't see me until I was almost a year old. So, he's not for statehood, and he and tons of thousands of others have served, and are not for statehood. So let's not have that kind of be a statement, of all the Armed Forces are for statehood. They're just not. That's just not the case.
Second. As a matter of historical fact, the Puerto Rican Independence Party got the largest amount of votes in 1952, when soldiers were coming back after serving. They got 24 percent of the vote. Now, this is the same Puerto Rican Independence Party that today covers around 4 percent; yet in 1952 got 24 percent or 125,000 votes. So, again, you can see that it just doesn't --
And, I wish Senator Lieberman would not have gone because I think we have to be cautious about General Miles' words. I'd just like to for the record -- everybody understands this is the same General Miles that led American troops at wounded knee, murdering over 400 Native American, of which he got the title, "The Butcher". That's not something that I'm making up; that's just an historical fact. So I think we have to put in question anything that General Miles might have to say about the people of Puerto Rico, and democracy, and freedom, since he obviously did not guarantee it for the true Americans, the Native Americans, those that were here for before any of us.
Let me just make some points. They say this is not a bill for statehood. My colleague from New York, Jose Serrano, says this is just a bill, and that you can't guarantee statehood. That's true.
But, this is a statehood bill. The resident commissioner of Puerto Rico is quoted in the papers in Puerto Rico as saying, "Because we have the definition of statehood, such as we have this, we are guaranteed to win the plebiscite for statehood." Now, I'm not saying that. The proponents have already stated, that if you pass this bill the way it is, they will win the plebiscite.
The next day in Puerto Rico, the former governor of Puerto Rico, Mr. Ferre, who is here with us, went back to Puerto Rico and said, "This is a statehood bill." I'm not saying it's a statehood bill, the proponents are saying it's a statehood bill.
During the debate of the Young Bill, the measure in the House, everything was stopped, and canceled, and came to a standstill, because there was a message from the president of the United States of America. That's how we came to a standstill, from our fine president. And what was the president's message? Vote for the Young bill, so that we can bring about statehood for Puerto Rico.
So, I'm not the one saying that this is a statehood bill, the proponents, the president of the United States. And the proponents have clearly, emphatically, articulated that this is a bill for statehood.
And why will it guarantee statehood? They tell you on the one hand, well, you know, we should cherish all of the freedoms and democracy, and stand up for them. Then on the other hand tell you, those same soldiers that they talk about, well what do we do with the widow of the Vietnam vet? What do we do with her? We say her citizenship is statutory; that it can be taken away by the Congress of the United States? This is a widow.
In other words, what we're saying in the Young Bill, that somebody who becomes a naturalized citizen who wasn't born in this nation, never served in this nation, has more rights to their American citizenship than someone born in Puerto Rico.
Now, I can understand where in 1917 the Jones Act was passed by the Congress of the United States, thereby imposing American citizenship on everybody who lived on the island of Puerto Rico. And I use the word imposing, because the fact that historically the local legislature and leadership in Puerto Rico rejected American citizenship, rejected it.
So, as we looked at that issue I said to myself, well, I'm supposed to vote for a bill; and then go to my wife, who was born in Mocha, Puerto Rico, and say, "Honey, you know today I voted to cheapen your American citizenship." So that one day an INS agent can come into our home and deport you from the United States of America. And mom and dad, I'm doing the same thing to you. And the tons of other soldiers who have served in the Armed Forces.
And you can smile, Carlos, but it's really not a laughing matter. It's a very serious matter, and it's a matter that I take very, very seriously.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I'm not laughing at what you're -- I'm laughing at the way you say things.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: American citizenship --
SENATOR BUMPERS: Congressman, if I may interrupt just a moment. I don't want to make this a hard and fast rule, and I understand the passions on both side of the issue, but let's maintain a little decorum. If you want to applaud at the conclusion of the testimony, and so on, that's fine, but let's not have applause in between, and interruptions.
So, Congressman, please proceed.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much.
I think it's a very central issue. Look, if I call -- I go to Puerto Rico every August, Senator Bumpers. And you call, and try to get a car rental, they send you to international. You try to get an airline ticket, it's international. You try to get a hotel reservation at the Hyatt, it's international. What does that mean? International, between two nationals.
Now, let's not confuse something, because it's very, very critical. Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States. But what are they nationally? What is the nation?
My distinguished colleague from Puerto Rico says that Puerto Rico's a community; a community of people, that it's not a nation. Let me just suggest that Puerto Rico is a nation.
It's got to define geography, define language, define idiosyncrasy, define history, define culture. Everything. Puerto Rican people speak Spanish. The reason people speak Spanish in Puerto Rico is because for 400 years the Spaniards were there. And think about it. After 100 years that we're going to be observing, 100 years since July 25th, the invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States of America, most Puerto Ricans don't use English as their primary language; the immense majority don't. And they still consider themselves Puerto Rican first, and American second.
Now, I'll end with this. Recently, there was a two-day national strike in Puerto Rico. Paralyzed everything in Puerto Rico. What did the working men and women hold in their hands? Did they raise American flags as the workers at Caterpillar in Illinois raised, during their strike? Did they raise American flags as workers throughout, coal miners, and throughout the history? No, they didn't raise the American flag.
We had tens of thousands of American citizens raising the flag of their nation, of Puerto Rico. Just as in the United States, workers here when they're demanding their rights for democracy, raise the American flag.
Let's remember that, because otherwise, we're going to be making a mistake. Because let's say that we go through this process, and we don't explain it to everybody.
If Puerto Ricans understand, as the resident commissioner has so eloquently written in his book, "statehood is for the poor", published that book I believe in 1978. And what the resident commissioner said in 1978 -- and he has not disavowed to this point -- is he said, that under statehood culture and language are non-negotiable. In other words, he's telling the people of Puerto Rico, you will maintain your culture, you will maintain your language, you will maintain your idiosyncrasy. Does that mean we're going to have a bilingual nation, a bicultural nation in the United States of America, or is a nation of people that all come together?
Lastly, look, American citizenship, don't do it to the people of Puerto Rico, because here's what going to happen, senators. They're going to say, statehood is the only thing that guarantees American citizenship. If you allow them to do that, you're going to get a vote for statehood. You're going to have a winning vote for statehood. The resident commissioner understands that, and is stated so very eloquently.
That's not the way to do it through fear and intimidation, for people to fear what they're going to lose. Tell the people of Puerto Rico that their citizenship is guaranteed. It is guaranteed. Because to not say that, it means that Jose Serrano, the congressman from New York who was born in, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; and Nydia Velazquez, the congresswoman from New York -- you're telling me that these two congress people, that their American citizenship could be taken away from them. Maybe not their congressional pensions, but their American citizenship.
None of us believe that that will ever happen. And if it will never happen, then don't make it a cause for celebration and a cause for dispute in this thing. Let the people of Puerto Rico decide, but let them decide freely, without fear and trepidation. And then we can all move forward to the solutions of Puerto Rico's colonial status.
Thank you very much, Senator, for your time this morning.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Congressmen, Senator Bumpers, Senator Graham, thank you. I was detained out there with some of my constituents from Alaska, so I do apologize, and would encourage any follow-up comments by any of the three members. And then I would call on Senator Bumpers and Senator Graham for questions, and I would withhold my questions until last.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman? I just want to ask for a personal privilege, Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Please, proceed, Carlos.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: -- referred to me several times, and misquoted me for several times. I'd like to address the panel.
Let's start with the misrepresentations that have been made here just a little while ago.
When they talk about what General Miles said in Puerto Rico, and then destroy what he said in Puerto Rico, and they take the incident what he did with the Native Americans; that is an act of the individual. But when he spoke in Puerto Rico, and he said that he came to bring freedom to Puerto Rico, he did not say it as a general, or by himself, he was representing the United States. And probably those were words that he was instructed to say by the president, or somebody in the State Department, or in the Department of Defense, or the war department. I don't know what their name was at that time.
But it was not something that he himself as a general had the right authority to say, because he was not going to be in control. He was just coming and invading Puerto Rico, to take over from the Spanish Government.
Now, further on in the same vein, misrepresenting things, they said that I have said in Puerto Rico that this bill guarantees statehood. But of course, when you say only one section, one of part of what somebody has said, and you leave out the rest, to say part of it is as much of a liar, as to say the country.
Yes, I did say that this bill guaranteed statehood, but I explained why. Because for the first time the people of Puerto Rico would be having a bill before them, that was approved by the Congress, where all three options would define, and Commonwealth was defined as what it really is; a territory.
And that when the people of Puerto Rico, who has been misled into believing that Commonwealth is something that it is not, realize that Commonwealth is a territory, is a common; and they realize that the only way that we can be permanently united to the rest of the nation, and have a permanent guarantee of citizenship, is by being a state. And the only way that we can have the right to vote, and the right interpretation of being a state, is that guaranteed statehood.
Governor Ferre also said that this bill brought statehood to Puerto Rico, but he has also made in his statement, made the same remark, that for the first time Congress has sponsored a bill, and was telling the people of Puerto Rico that they would seriously consider statehood.
What the Commonwealth leaders have said in Puerto Rico and what the independence leaders have said in Puerto Rico, is that even if we vote for statehood, there is so much prejudice in the nation, and there is so much prejudice in Congress, that statehood would not be granted to Puerto Ricans.
That's why then we said -- and Ferre is right here. And I'm speaking for him, because I remember what he said. And I just got a little handwritten note to remind me what he said.
Also, he mentioned that they would be taking citizenship away from a Vietnam widow. Now, that sounds really something that's unacceptable. Of course, it's unacceptable. Nobody's saying that the nation is going to take -- or Congress is going to take away the citizenship of Puerto Ricans. No.
As a matter of fact, let us read, because they tell us a lot of things about what this bill does say, but they're never specific about it.
Let us read what H.R. 856 says about citizenship.
It says, "Persons born --", and it's on page 11 on the definition of Commonwealth in the bylaws.
"Persons born in Puerto Rico have United States citizenship by statute, as secured by the Constitution." Now, is that true? Yes, of course it is true. How do we have citizenship?
The Constitution says that those people born in the states, or naturalized, will be citizens of the United States. It doesn't say anything else. So, therefore, Puerto Ricans are not citizens by the Constitution, because the Constitution doesn't say that people born in Puerto Rico are citizens. We're citizens because there's a statute.
An act of 1917, called the Jones Act, have said people born in Puerto Rico, from that day on, will be U.S. citizens, so this statement is correct.
Why is it necessary to say that to the people of Puerto Rico? Because they have been misled. They have been told that our citizenship is constitutional, and that can never be taken away.
Can Congress repeal the statute? Of course it can. Can Congress say that people born in Puerto Rico, from the Year 2000 on are no longer U.S. citizens? Of course it can.
Then it says further. "It is a policy --", in order to accommodate that concern, whether the Congress could take our citizenship away or not, it is said further. "It is a policy of the United States that citizenship will continue to be granted to persons born in Puerto Rico." It is a policy. But that's the truth. A policy can be changed.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I want to try and limit the responses here, although I do want the responses. So, Jose Serrano, do you have a response?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Can I just finish this paragraph on the citizenship, Mr. Chairman?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Sure.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: It's just one more sentence.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Please.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: "The rights, privileges, and immunities, provided for by the United States Constitution apply in Puerto Rico, except where limited by the Constitution to citizens residing in a state." And that's also a true statement. There's nothing false about it, and it is for the Congress to tell the people of Puerto Rico the truth, and not to lie to the people of Puerto Rico, because they have been lied to since 1952.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Jose Serrano.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Yes, I just wanted, Senator, to -- while you were out, and I just want to reiterate it, I said that I may be the creator of a new movement in the Puerto Rican community, throughout the world, which is not to be for an option, but against one.
I am wholeheartedly against a colonial status, as I see it. Independence and statehood are acceptable to me, and I think they should be acceptable options for our country.
The reason I support this bill, and its companion bill in the House, is because this bill for the first time tells the people of Puerto Rico, there will be a vote. You will select an option, and we will act on it by a date certain. We will say something. It doesn't say we will accept what you choose; therefore how can it be a statehood bill or an independence bill? It doesn't say that. It says we will act on it.
And in fact, if this bill is anything, this bill is a Commonwealth bill. Now Puerto Ricans are famous for analyzing things to death, and I've become addicted to the same disease over the last couple of years. But, let me tell you how I mean that.
If Puerto Rico votes for Commonwealth, Commonwealth stays. If Puerto Rico votes for statehood, or independence, and Congress rejects it, Commonwealth stays. If Puerto Rico votes for statehood or independence, and Congress accepts it, and it goes back to the island for a yes or no vote, and the vote is no, Commonwealth stays.
The last time I checked, there were five different times where Commonwealth stays, and only once where statehood or independence come in. The problem is -- and I repeat -- that the Commonwealth as written, which is what it is today, and you're hearing it again from one who was born in the colony, and now belongs to the colonial power's congress, proudly so -- the one that is written in the bill is the one that is today. And the one some people would be is the one they want to negotiate in the future.
Well, maybe there should be another option in the bill that says, vote for this option, and we will negotiate your future, whatever that might be. Congress will never buy that.
Citizenship. I have five children born in this country. Two of those three from a marriage between a Puerto Rican and myself. I have no doubt that those two children have a different citizenship than I have. The question is not whether we break somebody's heart by telling them your citizenship is different; the question is what is true.
My son, Jose; my daughter, Elisa; my son, Benjamin, Justine, and Jonathan, were born in New York. They're American citizens constitutionally. Their father was born in Puerto Rico under the Jones Act.
Will Congress ever take away my citizenship? Kind of tacky to do that to a congressman, not to mention anyone else. But I know you can do it. I can do it. I may be the only vote against it. Well, I'll probably get a few votes on this table. But, that's a fact.
And what does this bill do? It spells out the fact. And it goes further to say, and if you still you want to live with that fact, you can do it; however, we're going to revisit the issue every so many years until this issue is solved.
I think that's very dignified of Congress to say, if you choose statehood or independence, that's one issue. If you choose Commonwealth as is, we're going to revisit every so often.
Well, let me close at this point by saying this. Again, I find myself in a unique situation. As a Puerto Rican I want the colonial status too, and As an American congressman I am embarrassed that I have a colony that I oversee. I'm embarrassed that if I move back with Carlos, I have no rights as an American the way I have now.
I can come to Congress from Carlos, living with Carlos. In fact, I will have to defeat him, there's only one congressman from Puerto Rico, and then I would have no vote in Congress. But on the other hand, I cannot go back to Puerto Rico and be president of a Republic. I can't go back to Puerto Rico and help my government, and lobby my government to establish relations with Mexico, or the Dominican Republic, or to trade with Japan.
I'm not a state, and I'm not an independent nation. I don't have the sovereignty of the union, and I don't have the sovereignty of the world. Therefore, you call it whatever you want. I'm a colony, and that's embarrassing, both for me as a Puerto Rican, and for me as a congressman.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Mr. Chairman, I will take a turn. But I would like to have it stated for the record --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you. Let me turn to Congressman Gutierrez for a response, because I think we have a unique parallel here of two congressmen that have very different views, and yet bear the same responsibility to their heritage, to their constituents, and certainly to their families. So, I look forward to your comments.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, first of all, I went last. So I'm happy you're giving me a second turn, since going last didn't really benefit my making statements here.
Let me just say the following. They have not disputed what I have said. They have said that, if you're born on the island of Puerto Rico, and you're the widow of a Vietnam veteran, your citizenship can be taken away from you.
That's what he just said. He said as even a member of Congress. I don't believe that to be true. I don't think any of the members of this panel believes that to be true; that that's just ever going to happen, or that it's true; that a naturalized citizen has more rights.
Now, let me just make the point. They say that 1917 Congress passed a law. They did, the Jones Act, which imposed American citizenship on the people of Puerto Rico. I say impose, because no one was asked. It wasn't like they went down there, had a plebiscite, do you want to be an American citizen. They just said, you're an American citizen. That's the way it happened. That's undisputed.
Let me just make the following point. When my grandfather, who was born in 1902, he was born a national of Puerto Rico, and a citizen of neither Spain or the United States when he was born. He was born to the nation of Puerto Rico, according to the Foraker Act, which was passed in 1900 by this Congress.
In 1917, when he was about 15 years old, he got American citizenship. Fine. I can understand that my grandfather, who having gotten American citizenship, maybe an act of Congress could take it away from him. But wait a minute, my Dad was born an American citizen, wasn't born a national of any other country.
As a matter of fact, if I and my wife go tomorrow to Germany, or England, or anywhere in the world, and my wife gives birth to a child, she's an American citizen. Not statutory, because she is what? She is the daughter of two American citizens. I am the son of two American citizens. Wasn't confirmed. Both of my parents were born well after 1917. They were born citizens of this country. And our constitution is not going to permit you take away their citizenship.
The Constitution also says that the Congress has the power to grant and regulate citizenship; therefore it is protected by the Constitution. However, Congress cannot take away citizenship.
It is so hard to lose your American citizenship, that in Puerto Rico people are signing up, Mr. Chairman -- people are signing up and saying, "I renounce my American citizenship." And you know what? Our government took them to court, and won in court, and said you can't do it.
Now, think about it, Mr. Chairman. Even if you go to court and renounce your American citizenship, our government and our court says you can't do it. But yet this bill tells us that it's statutory. It seems like some pretty protected citizenship to me, that you can't even renounce it on the island of Puerto Rico.
And let me be clear. I'm saying that this is a statehood bill, because that's what it is, and that's where it steers everything, and this is a key and fundamental issue; the issue of citizenship. Because if you take that away, you start gearing the program towards statehood.
Now, having said that, the resident commissioner added something to it, and it's fine that he clarified his statement, but it's still undisputed that he said we're going to win the plebiscite, because we've got the definition for the Commonwealth.
Now, he'll say that that's the definition for the Commonwealth, which is true. It's also the definition that allows him.
Interestingly enough -- and then I'll suspend. In Puerto Rico, in 1993, the Resident Commissioner's Party, the new progressive party, controlled the Senate and the House of Representatives in Puerto Rico. They controlled the governorship. The controlled most of the municipalities.
They decided when they won the election that they would have a plebiscite in Puerto Rico, right? Why didn't they bring up these definitions of Commonwealth, and statehood, and independence, when they freely articulated the definitions? Why do they come and change the definitions now?
Remember they said, this is the plebiscite bill for statehood. Everybody said they were going to win it. The resident commissioner said, if statehood wins, I'm going to go petition for statehood tomorrow, given the 1993 plebiscite.
Well, statehood didn't win. They got to define the rules. They got to define the definitions. They got to define everything, the date, everything that was going to take place, and they still lost.
The fact is, gentlemen, statehood has never won a plebiscite in Puerto Rico. And if you allow this to happen this way, you're going to get an artificial one. That's not what we want. Because the problem and the issue here is, you have two nations, two people.
Puerto Rico is a nation of people, because that's how you get a colony. You can check it out. The resident commissioner says Puerto Rico's a colony. You can't colonize a community. You have to colonize another people, another nation, and that's what we are.
So, when you look at it, you have to say to yourself, let's make sure we do it right. So that if they do petition for statehood, they know what they're getting into. And that they know that what the resident commissioner has said, that their culture, and their language, and their idiosyncrasy is not sacrosanct once you become a nation, once you become a part of the United States of America. And we've already had a civil war, so I guess you can't succeed if you don't like it.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much.
Since, we're going to keep the record open for 10 days, and you feel strongly as you do, Mr. Gutierrez, relative to the definitions, we would very much appreciate you supplying the committee with your comments on the specific definitions that are in both bills, and why you think they're unfair, or unrealistic, or lack a full and honest explanation to the people of Puerto Rico. And submit that with your specific recommendations.
Would you be able to do that?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Mr. Chairman, I certainly will. But let me just hasten to add, that I don't think you can fix a crooked building. You've got to kind of tear it down at the foundation, and start all over again. But, I certainly will present my recommendations, and how I see them, and I'll put them in writing to your committee. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for asking.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: All right. Because if this committee is going to proceed with this process, I think it's generally understood that the Congress is going to come up with the definitions, whether it's in either of these bills, or something else. And then the people of Puerto Rico are going to have the option of accepting or rejecting it.
SENATOR BUMPERS: Mr. Chairman, I don't have any compelling questions. I'd like to say to all three of the gentlemen in front of us, you all speak extremely well and eloquently, and I was most impressed.
And, to say to you, Congressman Gutierrez, you can tell the Vietnam widow that unless Congress takes collective leave of its senses, which we're inclined to do occasionally, she doesn't have to worry about her citizenship.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
SENATOR BUMPERS: I can't think of anything as suicidal as congressmen suddenly repealing the Jones Act, or by any other method, saying to the people of Puerto Rico they're no longer citizens of this country.
Luis Ferre and I went to the Soviet Union together back in 1971. It was my first year in the Governor's Conference. We became very good friends then, and he indoctrinated me into the idea -- something I didn't even know at the time -- that people in Puerto Rico are indeed citizens of America. And as I say, I can't imagine Congress ever changing that, regardless of the outcome.
And secondly, let me just say, I am not a student of the definitions that you've been talking about, but I certainly will become one before we vote on this, because I can't think of anything worse -- I mean, it's like our 30 second spots in this country. I can't think of anything worse than tilting the scale one way or the other, with language that would unfairly tilt the scale one direction or the other.
And I want to commend the chairman for suggesting to you that you submit changes in the definitions, or even substitute in the definitions, so that the people are voting on something that they fully understand.
And thirdly, let me just say, Congressman Serrano, I thought you were particularly eloquent in pointing out the number of elections that are going to be involved here, and the opportunities for this thing to be way laid.
I mean, at first we're going to have an election to allow you to hold a plebiscite and referendum. And then we're going to come back and submit something to you that you're going to have to have another election on. And then we're going through a transition period, and doing that transition period you're going to have another election.
So, it seems to me that there are an awful lot of safeguards. I have not committed on this bill one way or the other. Hopefully, I'm just be clinical, so that the record is clear on what the legislation does, and everybody understands what the rights of the people are Puerto Rico are, under the bill if it's passed in its present state.
But, let me just say, I don't know when and if we're going to get around to marking up the bill, and actually implementing it. I've been here. This is my 24th year. And I'm leaving at the end of this year. If we don't get it done this year, it won't affect me one way or the other.
But, I have no idea what our schedule's going to be. It's a very tight one. The majority leader reminds us daily of the constraints on the Congress by the very limited amount of time we had, and the full platter we have, as I'm sure you're hearing this in the House also.
But, let me just say to all of you, and to our audience, I understand, as I say, the very passionate feelings people have on both sides of the issue. The enthusiasm is healthy. So, I'll have to defer to the chairman on whether we're going to get around to marking it up, and the majority leaders to whether we're actually going to have a vote on it.
But, we're honored to have all three of you here. I've known Carlos for many years also. And we appreciate your being with us this morning.
MALE VOICE: Senator, may I make a comment about the citizenship, and taking away the citizenship?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, let me just defer that to the balance for my colleagues. We've been joined by Senator Thomas and Senator Graham.
Senator Graham, would you care to go next, and then I'd call on Senator Thomas.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And again, I appreciate your holding this hearing.
I would like to ask three questions of each of the panelists, and I would hope that these questions could be answered, maybe with one word, or at least one sentence, and no more than one paragraph.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, I'll wield the gavel, so good luck between us.
SENATOR GRAHAM: The first question is, as we know, this year we're celebrating the 100th anniversary of the special relationship between the United States of America and Puerto Rico.
Do you believe that the current status of that relationship will still be in place when we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States and Puerto Rico?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: No.
I was allowed a sentence?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: No, one word's fine.
SENATOR GRAHAM: You could not improve on your --
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Definitely not.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I don't believe, sir. Sorry.
SENATOR GRAHAM: So nobody at the panel believes that 100 years from now we will have the same status.
Second question. If not, if we will not have the same status in the Year 2096, or '98, do you believe that as part of the process of change, whatever that change may be towards, that the will of the people of Puerto Rico should be a central component of determining what that different status will be in the Year 2098?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Yes, but Congress will eventually call the shots anyway.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I think Congress has the constitutional authority and the power to call the shots, and we have to deal with the options that Congress gives us.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: And I want to be respectful, Senator, but the people of Puerto Rico will make the ultimate decision on this issue, and not the Congress of the United States.
I mean, we have a Declaration of Independence here. We told the British what we thought of them, and, historically people have done that. So, I think we will consult with them, but ultimately, given the plenary powers of this Congress, in spite of them, the people of Puerto Rico are going to make that decision. I think history shows that.
SENATOR GRAHAM: So there's somewhat of a mixed answer to the question of what will be the role of the people of Puerto Rico, vis a vis external institutions, such as the Congress, the United States, in making that decision.
If there is going to be a mechanism for the people of Puerto Rico to express their judgments, what should be the standards by which that request for the expression of the people of Puerto Rico should be evaluated, as to whether it will be an informed, meaningful, and respectful expression of the political aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Well, I think the provisions that are in the bill and its House companion speak to that. If it was a perfect bill, it would not include a colonial status as an option. No country should offer another country to continue to be a colony. But I think that the provisions of the bill speak to that consultation.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The answer that was given here, to the effect, to appear as that the final decision lies in the people of Puerto Rico.
If you look at it from a point of view of independence, the final decision does lie in the people of Puerto Rico, usually. But, if you look from a point of view statehood, it would be very difficult for the final decision to lie on us, because we need congressional decision on that one. It's Congress that accepts territory as a state, and not the territory imposes at will. So, even though we want to be a state, the final decision lies in Congress for Puerto Rico to become a state.
The question now is the -- regarding the -- I got lost on the question, what you asked about.
SENATOR GRAHAM: The question is, there's unanimity that we are not going to have the same status 100 years that we do today. The next feeling as to what should be the role of the people of Puerto Rico in self-determination of what that future status would be, but I think most would feel that at least they should have, if not determinative role in that.
And then the third question, is how to garner from the people of Puerto Rico that expression of their political will.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I think that definitely this bill does that.
Originally, the first bill that was filed in the House did not include the option of Commonwealth, because we felt that what we're trying to do is get rid of the colonial relationship -- put an end to it -- and therefore to put the colonial relationship as an option will not solve the problem. To put the problem as an option would be contradictory.
But, the people of Puerto Rico said that they wanted to see that option because of the status quo, so that's why it was included. That also belies a lot of the statements that have been made here; that they were not consulted.
There has been a consultation process all along, both in the House and in the Senate. The only thing is that, when we ask the leaders of the Commonwealth, over and over again, what is your choice, separate sovereignty or citizenship; which of the two would you have, they refuse to answer. They say they want both. They want to have separate sovereignty and also U.S. citizenship.
Now, we know that even if you could overcome the constitutional hurdles to having a separate nation with the U.S. citizens over there; that we're not subject to the jurisdiction of Congress, that they would not even have the U.S. district courts, or the U.S. judicial system to defend and protect the constitutional rights. That if even that were available constitutionally, politically this Congress would never accept such a situation.
And when you talk about they're taking away the citizenship, when the situation is precisely -- that's how it would occur. If the people of Puerto Rico wanted to have that kind of relationship, separate sovereignty with U.S. citizenship, the Congress is going to say, you want separate sovereignty; you cannot have U.S. citizenship.
Then, those people that were citizens and live in Puerto Rico, would be given an opportunity to keep their citizenship, but there will be process for keeping the citizenship. And if they became Puerto Rico citizens, or swore allegiance as a Puerto Rican citizen, or joined the army in Puerto Rico, or voted in Puerto Rico, as a separate nation, then obviously they could lose their citizenship. That's how they could lose their citizenship.
But, however, even a person who is born in the United States, and if it makes acts against his citizenship, he can lose his citizenship. And that could be statute, and the fact that the statute is repealed, and can be repealed is something that we know. That's why it's necessary to tell the people the truth.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Mr. Gutierrez, if you could, in a few words --
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I will assure you I won't take as long as the resident commissioner. Let me just say a couple of things.
Number one. If the true aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico are to enter into a non-colonial relationship, which is neither statehood or independence, in association with the United States, in preserving their U.S. citizenship, I think it's the duty of Congress to search for such an alternative. Number one.
Number two. Our constitution is conceived in liberty. It's not a straight jacket. We're going into the 21st century. Let's look for different relationships.
We kind of think of A or B. What if they want to preserve their culture, their heritage, their language, but they want to be our allies, they want to be our friends, and they want to have common citizenship with us. And, who knows what kind of relationship. All kinds of people are building all new relationships all over the world.
More specifically, to answer your question, I think that we all understand that we're debating the future Puerto Rico here in the Congress of the United States, here in the Senate; so that the sovereignty of the people of Puerto Rico does not rest with them.
So what I think we should do, Senator, very honestly, is to just pass legislation, returning the sovereignty to the people of Puerto Rico, which the resident commissioner has told us so many times, and which I agree, are some of the highest educated doctors, lawyers, in all of Latin America, and all of the world.
Return that sovereignty to them, and say, put a constitutional convention together, come back and tell us what you'd like to do. If Congress really wants to respect the free will and self-determination, let them make the decision, and come back and tell us.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Senator Graham. Senator Thomas.
SENATOR THOMAS (R-WY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I came primarily to listen, and get the unanimity of the witnesses. I'm still as confused as I was before.
It seems to me, however, that the process is what we are talking about here. And I guess I'd like you to react to why this isn't the case. It would seem to me in simplicity that the people of Puerto Rico would have plebiscite among themselves. The result of that would be a petition to Congress to do the result of that.
Why don't you do it that way?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Because we have had it that way before, and then the people who lead the Commonwealth option, and the leaders of the independence, tell the people of Puerto Rico, this is only a poll, because if statehood wins, it's going to be rejected by the Congress --
SENATOR THOMAS: What is it now, Carlos?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: What is it now?
SENATOR THOMAS: There's no commitment on the part of the Congress or United States.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: No.
SENATOR THOMAS: And in fact I have to tell you that one of the difficulties here is this title of self-determination. Do you think this is self-determination, this process?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I think so, definitely.
SENATOR THOMAS: So, if you vote for statehood, you think it's all over?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: No.
SENATOR THOMAS: Then how can it be self-determination?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Because I think Congress will respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico, and will negotiate a solution within that choice. I don't think that Congress --
SENATOR THOMAS: So you think the decision will be made when this plebiscite is over? It will be done, is that right?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: It will be made by the people of Puerto Rico, but Congress still has the power to --
SENATOR THOMAS: But you don't say that. You say this is self-determination.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Right. That of course gives us an opportunity of how we want it to be determined.
SENATOR THOMAS: That's how you then petition for what you'd like to have happen?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Right.
SENATOR THOMAS: But the idea, you go to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and say, well, they're going to have self-determination. That means, if they vote for independence, it's all over. If they vote for Commonwealth, it's all over. If they vote for statehood, it's all over. That's not the case, is it?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: It's not all over, no.
SENATOR THOMAS: Well, but that's the perception that there's.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: It's the process. Self-determination is not an easy process. Self-determination is not a quick process. Self-determination, it begins by the choice of the people --
SENATOR THOMAS: Well, I'm still confused.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: -- and then the discussions and conversations begin.
SENATOR THOMAS: I'm still confused. And you and I have talked about it, and the governor and I have talked about it; that as sophisticated a group as you are in Puerto Rico, that you cannot come up with the options described properly, I don't understand that.
When you were governor you couldn't do that?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: No. Because it's the Commonwealth leaders, they want to define Commonwealth as something that it's not, that's why you can't come with the definitions. You can't agree on those definitions, because --
SENATOR THOMAS: So, you have to have somebody else to do it for you?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Well, we think that the Congress has to make those definitions also for the people of Puerto Rico, to say, if you vote, these are the things that we're willing to consider. Beyond that, we won't even consider that. So, the Commonwealth that they define would not even be considered by Congress, so it would be flatly rejected.
As a matter of fact, we did have a plebiscite in 1993.
SENATOR THOMAS: I know.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The Commonwealth option got the plurality, got 48 percent.
SENATOR THOMAS: I know.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The legislature of Puerto Rico approved the resolution, sent if over to Congress. The House took a look at it, and said, no, no, there's no way, and rejected it. And that's one of the reasons why this process started.
SENATOR THOMAS: It never happened.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Yes, it happened on the committee.
SENATOR THOMAS: I don't think so, I was there.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The committee in the House, yes.
SENATOR THOMAS: But you and I were on the committee.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Yes, that was brought before the committee.
SENATOR THOMAS: But didn't ask us to do anything.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: It was rejected by the committee.
SENATOR THOMAS: What?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The definition of Commonwealth was put to vote in the committee, and was rejected by the committee.
SENATOR THOMAS: But it seems to me -- is that an option? I read somewhere where it's generally said that statehood, Commonwealth, as it is, or independence. And some say, well, Commonwealth as it is, isn't necessarily the only option. Commonwealth ought to change somewhat.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: So if Commonwealth wins, then Commonwealth can say, let us now take a look at this definition. Let's redefine it. Let's make some other things.
Just as the same thing if the statehood wins. They're going to be conditions set in statehood. If independence wins, they're going to be conditions set on independence. Even if the Congress decides that Puerto Rico should be independent after Puerto Rico selects it, there will be conditions set on that. There will be a schedule set on that.
Then Commonwealth supporters can say, let us take a look at this Commonwealth. We're not happy with this arrangement. Let's make some changes, but let's not go to statehood or independence.
SENATOR THOMAS: I feel strongly that people in Puerto Rico ought to express themselves as to what they want, but this process is a little convoluted, and I think it's difficult for people to really understand.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Senator, if I can interject the world as I see it, Senator Thomas.
SENATOR THOMAS: Good.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: The people of Puerto Rico have never been able to reach a consensus on the definitions of the alternatives. And as a consequence we are in a position now, where if we're going to proceed, we more or less develop those definitions. And, of course, we have them in the two bills that we have before us, of which some support, and some don't. And the ultimate disposition of our responsibility would be to put forth some definitions, and then they would go through the process of conference in the House. And then we may be in the same predicament, where one party or another in Puerto Rico would absolutely refuse to support those specific definitions, because they felt that they were not particularly sensitive to their point of view.
So the process suggests ultimately that the people of Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to accept or reject whatever, or if anything is offered from us.
SENATOR THOMAS: I just am confused, in that in the State of Alaska, if you wanted to have a decision, you have an apparatus in your state government -- as we do in Wyoming -- to come up with these things. And to suggest that you have a state government, a governor in Puerto Rico, and an legislator that came up with the choices for people to vote on, is difficult.
And I don't need you to talk about them anymore. We've already been through it. But it's confusing to me, that's all.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: May I --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Jose? Please be brief, because we have the administration --
SENATOR THOMAS: That's the tradition, is to make a petition.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Right. So through that state legislature -- let me tell you what the result will be -- you get a statehood petition, because the statehood party controls both houses and the governorship. And that will be signed.
Now, is Congress willing to accept that? If it is, we can solve this problem in about 55 days.
SENATOR THOMAS: The Congress may not be willing to accept the result of the plebiscite side either.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Absolutely. But you said why is this process good, convoluted as it is. And I agree with you. Well, because this process for the first time says, we allow you to vote. You take a vote.
It doesn't sound right, we allow you to vote, but that's what it is.
SENATOR THOMAS: We don't have to allow you to vote.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: You take a vote. And then we have date certain by which we will deal with this issue.
Why is that important to me? Because if they ask for statehood, for instance -- and I know this will raise eyebrows -- and we reject statehood, that sets on the national, on the local, and the international scene a petition then for independence. Because if you don't want us in, then let us go, could be the petition at that point. But something will be in place.
Right now nothing has been in place. July 25th some will observe, some will commemorate, and others will mourn this territorial --
SENATOR THOMAS: Commonwealth is nothing?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: How's that?
SENATOR THOMAS: Commonwealth is nothing? Is that what you're saying?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Commonwealth is colonial in nature, Senator.
SENATOR THOMAS: So it's nothing.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: It is nothing as within American democratic principles. I'm an American congressman.
I'm a Democratic. Senator, I don't know if you were in the room when I said this, and say to you with respect. I was born in the colony. My father was born an American citizen. He was born one month after citizens came in. He was already plotting my political career, obviously.
I am now an American who is a member of Congress. I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of where I've lived and grown up all my life, and where I'll probably be buried. But I do understand that the place that I was born in is kept in a colonial state by the Congress that I serve in. That's a fact.
Mexico may not be the best place for some Americans to want to live, but Mexico is sovereign. Texas may not be the best place some people want to live, but Texas is sovereign within this union.
Puerto Rico. This brother to my left does not have the same rights I have as an American citizen, and that is not right. He also doesn't have the same right a Cuban, a Mexican, a Dominican, or a British person has as a sovereign nation. He is not free and independent, and he is not a slave.
SENATOR THOMAS: I understand that, but you didn't vote for that the last time you had a plebiscite.
We don't need to go through it again. We've already been through this five times.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: And Senator, and what they voted for, of where they wanted to go was rejected in Committee, with only two votes for it. So, on one hand you're saying --
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I promise to be shorter in my answer.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: -- let them choose what they want, and then Congress is not willing to give it to them.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Congressman Gutierrez.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Let me just say -- Senator Thomas, look, the fact is that they did. They had a plebiscite in 1993. They lost it. Statehood didn't win. Therefore, you never got a petition for statehood. If you had that petition in my city of Chicago, I'd come here and say I'm going to do the will of the people. I might disagree with it, but I've got to do the will of the people.
We have never heard once the resident commissioner come here to espouse the will of the people in Puerto Rico. He's come here to say statehood is good, not who won the plebiscite. That's a little strange and ironic.
So they did do it. And let me just say, the definitions have been agreed to before, Senator Murkowski, in 1990. The House passed it 435 to zip. Three definitions. Everybody got together. A couple years of hearings.
The problem, Senator, is, they keep using the plebiscite. They don't win one for statehood. So, now they want to get it right, and they want this Congress to sanction it. So that then can say, we've got clean hands here. The Congress said this was okay, and these were the rules.
Because they know if they go back and hold another plebiscite in Puerto Rico, they'll probably lose it again, because it's never won one. I mean, why don't the just -- if they control the local government --
I'll tell you what Governor Edgar would do in the State of Illinois. He'd say, Senator , you're Republican, I'm Republican. Let's get our Republicans in the House, and let's pass this legislation, and present it to the people in the State of Illinois.
They control both Senate and House, and governorship in Puerto Rico. They could do this like this, and have a plebiscite, and then come back here and demand that. The problem is, they want to determine one thing, and they want us to sanction it. And they want us to say, the citizenship of that widow -- and I go back to that widow of the Vietnam veteran -- is statutory, and can be taken away.
So, you know, that's our dilemma. That's our problem. The fact is we have agreed. And you say, the three parties define, the statehood. They'll define statehood for you. Independence. They'll define independence and the Commonwealth.
Lastly, look, there are three traditions in Puerto Rico, and here I disagree with my fine, distinguished colleague from New York. If you look at Puerto Rican history, Senator Murkowski, they've been three traditions; a) there's been the tradition of independence, there's been the tradition of annexation, and there's been a tradition of autonomy. And those three -- the United Nations, not me, and the Committee on Decolonization, agrees that there can be autonomy, which is a decolonizing process, which is neither -- which respects nationhood.
So, I agree with you, Congressman Serrano
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: You're speaking about the Associate Republic, not about the Commonwealth.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: If I could just, please. Don't try to define your point.
Here's the point. The point is that we agreed that current status is colonial. It is a colony. That's why we're here to discuss again. That's why we have the sovereignty and the future of Puerto Rico in our hands, and that's why we're discussing it.
But the fact is that there are three traditions. You should respect those traditions, because if that's what the majority of people -- we should come together and respect that, because I think that's the right thing to do.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman, I just want to make some comments.
The first place, the reason why we're here is not only because of Puerto Rico. And I think that, Senator, you are looking at this as a point of view that is a concern of the people of Puerto Rico. No, Senator, I think this is a concern of the nation. That's why the Congress should also act.
Back in 1994, we had a Summit of the Americas with President Clinton in Miami, and when he gave us an opportunity to speak, I said, "Mr. President, when you go preaching democracy throughout the world, you're preaching morality in your underwear." He said, "What's that, Carlos?"
I said, Mr. President, because you tell Castro to hold the plebiscite in Cuba, and 400 miles away there is an island that is with almost 4 million U.S. citizens who are disenfranchised; who are denied the right to representation; who are in a relationship with a nation that is undemocratic.
And Hernandez Colon, the other governor of Puerto Rico -- he and I followed each other back and forth for a while. And we agreed on very few things in public, particularly on status. And recently he wrote an article. He said that the relationship of Puerto Rico and the United States is undemocratic. It is an undemocratic relationship.
This is the decade of decolonization in the United Nations. Is the nation going to stand by, fold its arms, and say, you in Puerto Rico decide, when we haven't been able to decide because we haven't been able to agree on definitions. And we'll never be able to agree on definitions.
When the Commonwealth was established in 1952, a group boycotted the establishment of Commonwealth in Puerto Rico, boycotted it, that referendum.
When the Popular Party had the referendum, or plebiscite, in 1967, the other two parties boycotted that plebiscite. Now, the Popular Party, they're going to boycott this plebiscite. That's how you show procedure in Puerto Rico, boycotting plebiscites by one group who feels that they're going to lose. The groups that feel they're going to lose, they boycott.
But it is important for the nation to tell, not only to us in Puerto Rico, but to the whole world, these are the realistic options that will be considered by the nation, and give the people of Puerto Rico an opportunity to vote on those options.
Here we have somebody who lives in Chicago, and says he wants to be buried in Chicago, Mr. Gutierrez. He wants to be buried in Chicago. He votes for president, he votes for senators. He represents Chicago, and votes on the House, on the floor. And he wants to tell us we should never vote. We should be U.S. citizens, but without a right to vote, and a right to representation. He doesn't have the frustrations I have here as a representative of the people of Puerto Rico.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I'd just like for the record -- I don't think the record will substantiate that.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Sir, please. Go ahead finish.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Yes. I wanted to have equality for the children of Puerto Rico, for the children in healthcare; equality in healthcare. And I was told I was going to have it. And through the process the children of Puerto Rico were set aside, and so were the other territories. Discrimination in healthcare with children. Now, this is why this process is necessary.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Does anybody have anything more to add before we convene?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Just real quickly. I don't think I ever said any of those things that the resident commissioner just stated. I represent the people of the Fourth Congressional District, half a million of them sent me here to Congress. If the people of Puerto Rico decide to make it a state, maybe you'll get elected to Congress with the equality that I have.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Very briefly, Mr. Chairman. I'm sorry Senator Thomas left. He made a big point about consensus. Well, I really believe that's a result of being a colony for 100 years. There was a time in Puerto Rico when there was a strong independence movement, and we in this congress, and in other places participated in discrediting that movement. There was another time when there was a statehood movement, and we tried to bring fears into people.
Now, there are all kinds of people saying that Commonwealth is the solution, and statehood will sell out our national identity, and we will die of hunger if we become independent.
There have been many forces at work that do not allow the consensus, but Congress has to make the final decision. And one final comment. I thought Senator Graham, who I've known for a long time and served with on education issues under President Carter, his last question was going to be, so where do you think we will be X amount of time from now.
I really think that statehood is a viable option for about 20, 25 years, 15 years. After that, the United States becomes very embarrassed by holding on to a colony, and independence then becomes an immediate option. It could be that independence is an option immediately upon a rejection of statehood.
All of that has to be taken into consideration. But the main point is, we cannot continue to preach self determination throughout the world, and hold as colony. And if you do it for no other reason, than for all of the people of Puerto Rico, then, my God, do it for me so I don't continue to live in this dilemma. I want to know where I stand, and I'm confused everyday of the week. Thank you.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Then let's keep American citizenship sacrosanct, and not play around with it. Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Let me first of all thank the witnesses. I think that your contribution has been significant. I'm going to ask one question, and I'd like a yes/no answer. And that is, given the fact that we understand that what ultimate definitions will be determined, will be determined by the Congress, and this committee may have a significant voice in the development of those particular definitions.
My question is, do you think that Congress has the wisdom, and the ability to be totally objective in drafting alternatives in such a way as to be fair to each of the three specific interest groups that seek a resolve of this matter, which would lead to eventual self-determination? Because, we've heard, we've gone around, and the question is the definitions, and you're saying you have the will to accept or reject what we do, and certainly you will have that choice if we do it. But the question is, can we equitably and fairly present to the people of Puerto Rico language that represents fairly an opportunity, and is not swayed to one particular group, or another?
Do you follow my question? Jose, can we do that?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Absolutely. We did it in the House. We are doing it in this bill.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Well, just a minute, now. Everybody wouldn't agree with you.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Well, but the House agreed. They passed it. And the Senate has a bill --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: What was the vote?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: What was the vote? By one vote.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: That was hardly an unanimous vote in the House.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: We've done a lot of things by one vote.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I understand. What I'm getting at here, there are those that would argue at the table with you that that was not a fair representation; that it was swayed one specific way.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: Right. But we do have -- and that's the beauty of our system, and why it has withstood so many challenges throughout the years. We have a Senate, which will make changes, And then we have a conference process, and then we have a bill that allows for four or five votes to take place. I think it is secure. That's why I wholeheartedly support it.
But, Senator -- and I close with this -- the alternative inaction, another 25 years, another 50 years of a colonial status, that's unacceptable. Your question on the wisdom is a good one, but the result of not showing what limited or brilliant wisdom we have is unacceptable.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Mr. Gutierrez?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I think in 1990 the Congress did it, 1990, 1991. It's not doing it this time.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: In other words, it was more objective and fairer?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Oh, I believe -- we changed the definitions, Mr. Chairman, since 1990, which were unanimously approved in the House.
I think it is a good point. And I think the more we debate it -- and I'd just like to say, I remember when everybody said, oh, the Young Bill. It's got 80 some odd co-sponsors, of which almost half of the original co-sponsors of the Young Bill when it came on the House floor voted against it; 41 out of 83 original -- I've never seen such a thing in my limited period in the Congress, to see half --
Because once they heard the debate, they said, God, this isn't what we signed on to. And I think the more we debate it, the more people have questions about it, the better it's going to work.
Look, when it came out of committee, it came out unanimously out of committee. Yet, 17 of those people, 17 of those members of Congress who voted for in committee, final draft, this is our recommendation to the other members, 17 of those members voted against it.
What made them change? I think what made them change is there was finally a debate.
I've been a member of Congress, and I remember going before the committee, and they wouldn't even allow me to be a member of the committee, when in the Banking Committee, any member comes on over, they've got an issue. We always suspend the rules. I wouldn't even be allowed to speak on these issues. They went to Puerto Rico; I wasn't allowed to participate. So, it wasn't exactly a participatory process over there.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: In the Young Bill?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: In the Young Bill. No, sir, it was not.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: And you petitioned to -
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I went to the full committee, and I said, I ask unanimous consent. As a matter of fact, the chairman, and the ranking member both requested that I, and Nydia Velazquez and Jose Serrano be permitted to be members of the committee; unanimous consent to be members of the committee during the hearings, which we do in the House all of the time if a member has an issue. There was an objection from the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Was the objection to both of you?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I don't think he would have objected so much to Jose as to me.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: But did it apply to both of you?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: It did.
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: I have to clear that up. There was a situation where two members left. I had a better schedule. I stayed, and I got to speak.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Carlos, can you tell us why you eliminated Gutierrez?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Sure. I was opposed to the fact that he and Nydia Velazquez participate as members. I said that they could ask questions, but not to participate as members. And they would ask questions only if there was time available, because we had a lot of witnesses.
But then, that was my point. But my point was not accepted, because as Serrano said, he stayed, and he was allowed to participate. They left because they got indignant about my statement. And they left, and they made their statement, and they ran out of the hearing room, huffing and puffing, but Serrano stayed.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: You know, by huffing and puffing --
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Let me finish.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Can I please respond?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: No. Let me finish.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: I would just like to say something, Senator.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Let me finish.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Carlos has the floor. I'll give you the --
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: You had asked about our participation, whether the Senate and impartial (unclear) in the Congress. I definitely think so.
And let me now correct for the record. In 1990 there was no agreement. I represented statehood, and there was never a final agreement. The definitions that were adopted, both in the Senate and in the House, were imposed.
Jeffrey Farrow is here. I fought with Jeffrey Farrow on the phone many, many times. And I complained to him about what the House had agreed to. And I opposed it. There was no agreement, but they've said that so many times, I think they believe it themselves.
I did not agree to the definitions in the Senate, because in the Senate one of the definitions was, that if we became a state, we would not be allowed to have the same participation in federal programs as other states. And how could I agree to something like that, which is unconstitutional?
So, again -- but I believe, that definitely, because this Congress --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: We have the wisdom, and can be fair.
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I think you definitely have the will -- you all can be much more impartial than we can in Puerto Rico. We have never been able to agree on our definitions, and I think you have an interest in this process going forward, and that you will come forward. And I think the definitions in the House, in the House bill, are fair definitions.
That they don't like them, that's something else. I can assure you, they will never like them. You have heard them during these hearings. You have heard them in the House hearings. They don't even want to submit definitions.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Do you think they favor statehood, yes or no?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: The definitions?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: The definitions and the House and Senate bill?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: I think the definitions are fair. The definitions are fair. The definition says, in statehood we will pay federal income taxes.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: You don't think they favor statehood?
COMMISSIONER ROMERO-BARCELO: Oh, definitely not.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Jose? Yes or no?
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO: No, because the bill does not say, if statehood wins, we will give it to you, so how can they favor statehood?
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Congressman Gutierrez?
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Well, I'd just like to state for the record, Mr. Chairman, when you check with the ranking member, there was a unanimous request that we be allowed -- I sat on the Banking and Veterans Committee. If there's an issue, we just have unanimous. He objected to it.
Now, what do I think? I think that Congress can do it, Mr. Chairman, but I think we've got this crooked -- it's so crooked already. It's kind of hard to fix it.
And I know that my colleague -- I care about a lot -- Congressman Serrano says we'll go to the Conference Committee. Are you kidding? I've seen things go to conference, and when it comes out of conference, we've got to vote on it the next morning, and it isn't what was even debated in the full committee in the markup.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Yeah, we have that over here too.
CONGRESSMAN GUTIERREZ: Those things happen. So, I'm sorry that he has such great trust -- I like an open process from the very beginning, where everybody -- let's do it, and let's do it right. I'd like to have that genuine gusto for the Congress, but late at night, I'm not too sure 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning we're going to get it right.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Okay. Well, I think we've pretty much exhausted this discussion. I think it's been a good one. I personally feel that some of the exposure would have been addressed had Puerto Rico sought the status, or Congress had invoked the status of incorporation, which it did, of course, in the case of Hawaii and Alaska. But that's not the case for Puerto Rico. That would have addressed the concern over citizenship being subjected to the exposure of being removed. And in any event, that didn't occur.
I want to thank you, gentlemen, and I want to move into the last witness from the administration.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, while the last witness is coming forward, can I make a concluding observation about what --
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Let me just introduce the witness, and then go ahead.
This is Jeffrey Farrow, a co-chair of the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico, who is accompanied by Randolph Moss, acting assistant attorney general for legal counsel, Department of Justice, and perhaps others.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, there was a word that ran through the testimony that we just heard, which I think is central, and that is the word respect. The United States has had a very difficult relationship within the western hemisphere. We have earned terms, such as the colossus of the north, and other descriptions, of which are a reflection of a perceived lack of respect that we have granted to our neighbors within the hemisphere. I think it is very important that at the end of this 20th century, we not take an action which would reinforce that old history.
The facts are that the Puerto Rican political process had requested of us that we provide -- we, the Congress -- a plebiscite. If we reject that request, that is a lack of respect of the political process, and the people of Puerto Rico.
But to me, the worse lack of respect would come if we submitted a plebiscite process to the people of Puerto Rico, outlining options. The people of Puerto Rico took that plebiscite as a serious request for their opinion; and then we were to reject the result of that opinion, whatever it might be.
So, I think it is extremely important for United States relations, not only with the people of Puerto Rico, but with the people throughout the western hemisphere, that we be very careful that we are submitting to the people of Puerto Rico a set of choices that we, not legally, but morally are committed to fulfill.
To reject a choice that the people of Puerto Rico had selected would not only damage our relationships on that island, but in my opinion would have a reverberating effect throughout the western hemisphere. So, I would just offer that we must be very sensitive to the consequences of the actions that we are going to take, and that the concept of respect should be a central component of the actions that we are about to undertake.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you, Senator. And it's my understanding that the actual proposal and the bills would be to authorize a plebiscite, so it gives, if you will, a congressional sanction, so to speak, as opposed to just the initiation of a plebiscite by the people of Puerto Rico.
In any event, I want to welcome Jeffrey and his colleagues. I hope that you've had an opportunity to observe the testimony in the last two days. And I've indicated to some extent that this is a highly volatile political issue in Puerto Rico. And the Congress, of course, involves itself in the politics. I would look to the administration for an objective point of view, excluding the politics, if my expectations may thus so warrant.
Jeffrey, please proceed.
MR. FARROW: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to just say that we do try to approach these issues objectively. As you also observed yesterday in the hearing, these are very political questions for the United States, and certainly for Puerto Rico.
One of the complexities and complications of the matter is that Puerto Rico's politics revolve around such drastically different visions of what the status of the island is at present, and what it ought to be.
The president has no preference on what political status Puerto Rico ought to have.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Has no preference?
MR. FARROW: No preference.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you.
MR. FARROW: But believes it's a serious issue, and ought to be addressed. And so, we try to address the issues objectively. The resident commissioner referred to arguments that he and I have had. I've had arguments with leaders of all the three political parties of Puerto Rico.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: These are discussions, sophisticated.
MR. FARROW: Yes, sophisticated discussions. You are a politician, Senator, and I'm not.
Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members, again, my name is Jeffrey L. Farrow. I am co-chair of the president's Interagency Group on Puerto Rico. I am accompanied by a number of administration officials. To my left is Randolph D. Moss, the acting Assistant Attorney General for Legal Counsel.
Let me again by thanking you for inviting the Executive Branch to testify on the two bills before the committee that would establish a process for determining the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico; H.R. 856, which has passed the House, and S. 472.
This hearing is being held days before the beginning of the centennial of the United States taking of Puerto Rico. The date, July 25th, is also the 46th anniversary of the present arrangement for the governing of Puerto Rico, including the locally drafted insular Constitution.
The arrangement is known by the name of the government that the Constitution established, Commonwealth. Under this arrangement the insular government exercises authority similar to that of a state, while the Federal Government continues to have its broad power under our national Constitution's territory clause, to govern nonstate areas under the sovereignty of the United States.
Through the arrangement, Puerto Ricans also consented to a number of provisions of federal law concerning the islands. The arrangement was established by actions of the people of Puerto Rico, as well as by actions of the Federal Government.
It was an important step in the development of Puerto Rico's self government that we honor and should be respected. It was not, however, a political status choice; and did not change the island's fundamental relationship to the United States, as your predecessor committee noted in approving it, as the House committee noted in approving it, and as the administration at the time noted.
The arrangement also did not rectify the problem of Puerto Ricans not having real voting representation in the government that makes national laws for them. Insular officials are elected, but the 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico, although United States citizens, are represented in the Federal Government only by a single resident commissioner, who is limited to voting and House committees. This democratic deficit grew more significant and apparent as the Federal Government expanded its activities in society since the early 1950s.
Almost since Commonwealth took effect, Puerto Ricans have petitioned for greater self-government. Today, all of Puerto Rico's political parties are based on one vision or another of a fully self-governing arrangement. They are divided, however, on what the options really are, in addition to which would be best.
The debate primarily reflects their conflicting visions, but it is partially attributable to conflicting federal statements, and a lack of clear federal policies on the matter as well.
Almost all Puerto Ricans want a status that involves substantial interaction with the United States, because they themselves cannot determine what the Federal Government would be willing to do. They have repeatedly petitioned you for legislation, such as the bills before you.
This is obviously a matter of transcendent importance. It concerns the still unrealized self-government rights of millions of people, 3.9 million citizens, under our flag by conquest, who sacrificed for us in war, but have no vote in the government that makes their national laws. It is also a pivotal question in determining many other federal and insular policies the approaches to serious economic and social challenges.
Should policies be geared toward Puerto Rico being permanently under the U.S. flag, or toward eventual separation? And if Puerto Rico's to reign permanently under our flag, will it someday be a part of our country in all respects? Should it be treated equally or differently? Resolving the status question is fundamental to resolving important social and economic policy questions of the federal and insular governments.
Further, the debate over status is so intense that it hinders action on economic and social issues, as well as the political one, to the detriment of Puerto Ricans and the nation.
This frustrating situation is likely to continue until the Federal Government finally responds to years of questioning by Puerto Ricans, and clarifies what the options really are. Their decision hinges on federal decisions that have either not been made, or have not been clearly articulated.
Is statehood really an option, as national leaders and a commission established by law have said? Where this United States area to which most national laws apply? Or are Puerto Ricans somehow incompatible with their fellow U.S. citizens, including the 3 million Puerto Ricans who live in the states, as a few people have suggested?
Will the United States help and remain open to Puerto Rico, if it's people choose to become a sovereign nation after a century under our flag without full self-government? Or will they simply cut it off, and leave it to its own devices, if its people choose to leave the family, and the restrictions, as well as the benefits, of the United States status?
Will the Federal Government seed the exercise of substantial national government authority to Puerto Rico under a Commonwealth arrangement? Can such an arrangement limit federal powers to govern U.S. territory. Can Commonwealth be a form of national sovereignty, under which U.S. citizenship would continue to be granted?
President Clinton firmly believes that after a century under the U.S. flag, Puerto Ricans should be enabled to choose among all of the real options; national sovereignty, either independence, or in a free association with the United States, membership and the union of states, and continuing the present arrangement.
This is its highest priority regarding Puerto Rico. People strongly support nationhood or statehood, if Puerto Ricans vote for either status. And he will continue to work to make the current arrangement work better for him as long as they do not. Again, he has no preference among the options, believing the decision should be Puerto Ricans.
The United States has committed itself internationally to supporting a Puerto Rican choice. Enabling Puerto Ricans to choose is a federal responsibility.
The president's position is that we should finally carry it out this centennial year, by providing the options through either the bills before you. He wants to establish a process that Puerto Ricans can act on as they are ready to, and that would channel the debate away from other issues, and toward a constructive end. He does not feel that Puerto Rico has to change, but he also believes that all the fully democratic options should be opened to its people.
Most fundamentally though, our government has a responsibility to tell non-fully self-governing Puerto Ricans what their fully democratic options are; so that they can decide as they are ready to, and we can all get other business.
Thus, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the president, I thank you for calling these hearings, and for the three prior sessions you have held on the status question itself, and issues that a status change would raise.
I also, on behalf of the president, thank Senators Craig and Graham for their leadership on this matter, and Senator Bumpers for his assistance to the administration on it.
The two bills that are the subject of this hearing are companion bills. They're not identical, especially since the House acted on its bill, which was sponsored by the leaders of both parties in the House, and the leaders on a bipartisan basis of your counterpart committee.
President Clinton strongly supported House passage of H.R. 856, and hopes to be able to sign either of the two bills into law.
The administration strongly urges the committee to favorably report a bill as soon as possible, given the number of session days left in this Congress. We are ready and anxious to work with you to do this, as well as to abstain full Senate passage and final congressional action.
Both bills contain the essential elements for a law on this matter. They will provide Puerto Ricans with the options on a realistic basis, authorize a choice on an ongoing basis, and provide for federal action on a choice of a different status.
It would also facilitate a choice, and in the event of a choice of a new status, lay out the process that would move to the next stage when both sides are ready.
The bills before you would not themselves change Puerto Rico's status. Indeed, they would require the passage of two more bills, and three popular mandates from the people of Puerto Rico, over a period up to a dozen years or more for a status change to occur. They would though, finally enable a clear direction for the islands to be determined, and to be worked toward if that is the will of the Puerto Rican people.
They would provide an orderly process for rationally addressing the myriad and complex matters that would need to be addressed to prepare for a change in status, and then to change it. They would enable the transition to be smooth and deliberate.
Finally, they would ensure that the mandate for change was sustained, when and if one emerges, providing both Puerto Ricans and the Federal Government with opportunities to rethink, in the event that matters do not develop adequately.
My written statement includes extensive specific comments of each bill. Let me touch on just a couple of the points in each of them.
First, H.R. 856. The bill begins with a number of congressional findings. They relate to Puerto Rico's history, current situation, and political status in general. These findings would not be part of the procedure for resolving Puerto Rico's status issue, and they have contributed to much of the controversy about the legislation in the Commonwealth.
They were substantially rewritten during the process of House consideration to make them more accurate, but they're still somewhat subjective, and they are not essential.
Section 4(a) would authorize an initial referendum on Puerto Rico's future political status this year. The president supports the goal of the status preference vote this year, but setting this as a statutory deadline is unnecessarily restrictive.
The government of Puerto Rico should have the flexibility to conduct the vote later, if it feels that additional time is necessary for arrangements or public education reasons.
Section 4(a) would also provide Commonwealth separate sovereignty and statehood options. The options are based on and reasonably respond to proposals of Puerto Rico's major political parties. Each of the parties is associated with one of the options traditionally discussed in the islands. Democratic principles require that the expressed aspirations of Puerto Ricans be central to the development of the options.
You have recognized that through your hearings. The options must also, however, be viable from the federal perspective, if they are to provide Puerto Ricans with a meaningful choice.
The president regards the consideration of party proposals and serious responses to them as integral to the mutual determination process that is needed to resolve the Puerto Rico status question. Again, the option, as described in H.R. 856, we find to be acceptable.
The bills provide for the president to submit a transition plan for a change in status within 180 days of a vote for change. We do not object to the six-month deadline for developing a transition plan in the case of statehood, but it would be unrealistic, given the greater complexities that would be involved in the case of Puerto Rican sovereignty.
The range of matters that would have to be addressed would be much greater, since Puerto Rico is treated as a state under most laws. A more realistic requirement for submitting a transition plan, in the case of Puerto Rican sovereignty, would be one year, after the conclusion of a Puerto Rican sovereignty convention.
We had recommended to the House that the length of the transition be provided for in the plan itself, since the measures that would need to be identified have not been precisely, would change from time to time, and should be based on consultation with Puerto Rico's leaders.
That is still our preference, but we feel that the 10-year time limit is reasonable. We prefer, however, the language in S. 472, which contemplates the possibility of extending the transition period by law. Such a possibility would of course exist in any case.
Let me make a couple of comments as well about S. 472. A major difference between S. 472 and H.R. 856, is that in the event of a choice of statehood, S. 472 would only provide the process for making Puerto Rico a territory destined for statehood, and incorporated territory, rather than for making it a state. Congress would have to act beyond what is specified in S. 472 to grant statehood.
Another significant difference is that S. 472 would not provide rules for congressional consideration of subsequent legislation in the process. H.R. 856 includes provisions, intended to ensure that its transition plan and implementation resolution, are expeditiously acted on by the Congress as a whole.
Section 3(b) would extensively require further status referenda, at least every four years in Puerto Rico, if there is a majority for continuation of the current governing arrangement; or if Puerto Ricans reject a federally approved transition plan, or reject implementation of a selected status. We suggest giving the Government of Puerto Rico greater flexibility on the timing of additional votes.
Mr. Chairman, I want to stress that our recommendations, those I've mentioned, and many others in my written statement, suggest the need for relatively minor amendments to these bills; and those amendments can be made in taking expeditious action in the case of either bill.
They also suggest that many provisions of the bill are useful, but not essential. We will be flexible on the extent of the details in the bills, so long as the essentials are included. Our goal is to enact a law this year.
The real questions that these bills present, and are before the Federal Government as a whole, are a very simple. Are we going to finally answer Puerto Ricans' questions of what their status options are, so that they can determine their preference?
Are we going to facilitate the determination of the direction they want to work in, if it is different from the present?
Are we going to meet our responsibilities on this matter, 100 years after we took control of the islands?
Are we going to enter the new millennium, having enabled nearly 4 million U.S. citizens, who are not fully self-governing, to take a step toward becoming so, if and when they want to?
We stand ready to work with the committee, to answer these questions affirmably as soon as possible. Thank you.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much, Mr. Farrow.
A coupe of questions relative to the differences between the House and Senate bill. The House bill calls for Fast Track; the Senate bill does not. Do you have any comments with regard to that specifically, the practicality of Fast Track? Because you in your statement indicate some caution about making sure that we have examined sufficiently the circumstances relative to the significance of this action.
MR. FARROW: Well, the president's position is that if the majority of Puerto Ricans vote for a change in status, he will ask the Congress to grant it. We loathe to intrude too much into the business of the organization of the Congress, and how the Congress conducts its business. And the Fast Track procedures really address congressional rules of how legislation is considered.
They would be useful for ensuring that the full congress responds to what the people of Puerto Rico have voted for. I don't think that they are essential to the legislation.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Now, you heard the last panel in the spirited discussion that took place relative to definitions. And clearly there were allegations made that neither of the two bills before the Senate, the Senate bill or the House bill --
MR. FARROW: -- the leadership's proposal was initially drafted. We have repeatedly invited the leadership of the popular democratic party to propose amendments, or to propose an entirely different alternative.
We also pledged to seriously and sympathetically consider such a proposal, and pledged to work for its congressional consideration.
The party includes members who advocate various enhancements, or more fundamental changes to the current arrangement; and it has internal discussions on the matter.
You heard from the president of the Popular Democratic Party yesterday. He essentially proposed a status that is outside the sovereignty of the United States, with the continued granting of United States citizenship.
It was unclear to me, in listening to the testimony, which of these elements was the priority. In the latest communication that we have had from him, however, continued U.S. citizenship seemed to be the highest priority. Thus, the option in H.R. 856, which provides for continued U.S. citizenship, provides for constitutional protection of U.S. citizenship, makes a commitment to grant U.S. citizenship in the future. That option seems to continue to be a reasonable federal response to what he has proposed.
The option in S. 472 is not directly based on a proposal of the Popular Democratic Party. In my statement I have a couple of suggestions with respect to changing that option.
Our basic position, as I've outlined this, is the starting point of the options ought to be the proposals of the parties. Again, you've heard from the president of the Popular Democratic Party yesterday. I think that's a reasonable basis to go on. The option in the House is reasonable. We've suggested some specific language changes, with respect to the option in 472, to conform to what the requirements of law would be.
There is less controversy, with respect to the options, the statehood and national sovereignty options. I have in my statement a number of specific suggestions, with respect to the national sovereignty option as well, but I think it is generally acceptable.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Relative to some of the concerns that have been expressed by counsel, let me ask you if you agree that Puerto Rico is under the sovereignty of the United States, and subject to the provisions of the Constitution, including Article IV, section 3, clause 2, applicable to it, as well as those laws and treaties that are made applicable? Should this be stated explicitly?
MR. FARROW: I agree. And as I understand the question, the provisions of the Constitution that you're referring to are those that are applicable. There are of course some provisions of the Constitution that do not apply currently.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Under the Commonwealth status?
MR. FARROW: Under the present governing arrangement, yes.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Because if it were incorporated territory, it would be a different circumstance.
MR. FARROW: That's correct.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Go ahead.
MR. FARROW: So, yes, I think this statement is generally correct.
I think this statement is generally correct. I think what is essential in a definition of Commonwealth is that it be clear -- and let me just, before I get to that address this issue of sovereignty a little bit.
It's important in assessing something to look at what the original law was. It was very clear in the enactment of the legislation that created the Commonwealth, clear from the Puerto Rican witnesses, the governor of Puerto Rico at the time. The resident commissioner from Puerto Rico at the time were clear that Puerto Rico's basic sovereignty was not being changed, and that the authority of the Congress under the territory clause would continue.
The governor, Governor Munoz Marin, who founded Commonwealth, said in the House hearing I believe, "You know, of course if the people of Puerto Rico should go crazy, Congress can always get around and legislate again."
The resident commissioner of Puerto Rico at the time said, "The authority of the government of the United States of the Congress to legislate in the case of the need would always be there." The resident commissioner said further, that "The legislation would not alter the powers of sovereignty acquired by the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris." That was also in essence the testimony of the administration at the time.
There's some confusion about this matter of sovereignty because I think the discussion that at least you and some of the members of Congress have been having about this refer to national sovereignty.
Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court has said under the Commonwealth arrangement, is sovereign like a state over matters not ruled by the Constitution of the United States. That is not national sovereignty. I think as the House definition makes clear, Puerto Rico would be under the national sovereignty of the United States.
What is essential is that it be clear how laws are made for the governance. The governing arrangement seems to me needs to be made clear. Whether you specifically reference the territory clause or not, it needs to be clear that under the Commonwealth arrangement as envisioned with U.S. citizenship, that the Federal Government would make national laws with respect to Puerto Rico.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Therefore, you would agree that really in its present status, Puerto Rico exercises the powers of self and local self-government, and that there is no plan or suggestion to curtail the exercise, so long as Puerto Rico remains a sovereign of the United States, and subject to the Constitution. And I assume you also agree that there's no plan or suggestion to alter or curtail the provisions of law dealing with citizenship, as long as Puerto Rico remains under the sovereignty of the United States, and subject to the Constitution as you so stated.
MR. FARROW: I would agree, and I'd go a step further. And Randy can kick me if he thinks I go too far on this, in terms of what the law is.
I think in entering into the Commonwealth arrangement, between 1950 and '52, which was entered into as a compact with the people of Puerto Rico, the Federal Government assumed a moral obligation, not a legal one, but a moral obligation not to unilaterally change Puerto Rico's status.
As I've quoted from Governor Munoz, the authority of the Congress is always there. But as a matter of policy this government has had, at least since the time of the early 1950s, that Puerto Rico's status should be based on a majority will of the people of Puerto Rico.
The language in the House bill specifically references that, with respect to Commonwealth. It says,
"It is the policy of the Congress that this relationship should only be dissolved by mutual consent."
Citizenship is similar, but there are some differences, in that there are constitutional protections that Puerto Ricans have under the current arrangement, where their citizenship has been granted by statute. The Congress would have to have a rational basis for taking away the citizenship of Puerto Ricans.
We cannot conceive of a rational basis, other than making Puerto Rico a sovereign nation. It is our position that if Puerto Rico is to be made a sovereign nation, that Puerto Ricans should be able -- those who are alive prior to sovereignty; that they should be able to make an election of whether they want to retain their U.S. citizenship or not, or become citizens of the new Puerto Rican nation.
Congress, of course, with this status debate unresolved, and with the possibility of independence or free association, nationally sovereign statuses, there has to be the ability of discontinuing the granting of citizenship prospectively.
In 1989, this committee reported legislation, that upon a vote for independence would have discontinued the granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans, so as not to compound the transitional problems of going between U.S. citizenship and Puerto Rican citizenship.
But, I have never heard a proposal -- I'm not aware of a proposal, the president would veto a bill. I know of no member of Congress who has suggested that he would introduce a bill that would take away citizenship from Puerto Ricans while under the Commonwealth arrangement. As long as the U.S. flag flies, we believe citizenship should continue to be granted.
MALE VOICE: If I might just add, on the constitutional issue, we do believe that the question of the retention of citizenship under the independence option is a very different question than the question of retention of citizenship under Commonwealth, or continued Commonwealth.
We've said a number of times today, that given the statutory citizenship of many of the people of Puerto Rico, that Congress could simply at its will, take away the statutory citizenship.
There is no Supreme Court case that is directly on point. I think the question actually falls between the two principle Supreme Court cases in the area. But I think that I very compelling argument can be made that Congress would lack the constitutional authority, under the Commonwealth option, simply to revoke the statutory citizenship of people residing in Puerto Rico who currently have that status.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Even though the exposure potentially is there under strict interpretation, because of the lack of incorporation.
MALE VOICE: Right. The argument would be that -- I take it that -- there are some who argue that in fact there is 14th Amendment citizenship in Puerto Rico. It seems that the better views is that it is in fact statutory citizenship.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I think that's the conclusion that many of us have taken; it's statutory.
With regard to independence, I would assume you would agree that the issue of citizenship is significantly important be addressed in a formulation of separate sovereignty, should that be --
MR. FARROW: I think it needs to be clear, Mr. Chairman, the misunderstanding, largely because of the sovereignty question, and because of the question of what Congressman Gutierrez referred earlier to what the middle ground option ought to be.
It is a fundamental element of nationhood -- that citizenship is a fundamental part of nationhood. It ought to be clear to Puerto Ricans that whatever measures are worked out for transition, whatever measures are worked out with respect to persons who are currently citizens, that at the end of the day, or end of the years, that if Puerto Rico becomes a sovereign nation, that the citizenship that would be granted would be Puerto Rican citizenship, birth, and Puerto Rico under sovereignty would cease being a basis for granting citizenship.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Right, I understand.
Do you think that it is sufficiently clear that this legislation, and the referendums, are advisory only, and that before Congress could consider an admissions act, there would have to be a variety of legislative changes, and what historically would have been viewed as preparing "the territory"? And further, do you agree, whatever transition measures might be necessary, especially those involving entitlement programs and revenue measures, would have to comply with the requirements of the Budget Act?
MR. FARROW: I think it is very clear that under this legislation, under either bill, that the referenda are advisory, and Congress would have to act. The purpose of us laying out a process is to provide some rational way of addressing these questions, and to provide some assurances to Puerto Ricans that their vote would be taken seriously.
This is a different situation than we've had, with respect to other territories that have become states. Although, we've had some independent areas that have become states, we have not had an incorporated territory where we've considered the statehood question.
And the question we're looking at here, again, is not whether to admit Puerto Rico as a state at this point; the question is what direction Puerto Rico wants to go, and if it wants to go in any direction, other than the present one. Does it want to move in the direction of national sovereignty, as opposed to moving in the direction of incorporation and statehood.
So, yes, first that direction has to be ascertained. Since Puerto Rico's not incorporated, most tax laws don't apply. A few program laws do not apply equally, and so those measures would need to be acted on. There are budget implications potentially of those measures, of those fiscal measures; entitlement programs, tax laws, etc. The legislation would have to comply with the Budget Act as well.
We think, however -- let me make this point, so as not to create any apprehension, among listeners anyway. The legislation I think rationally provides for a transition period. Whether or not the committee reports a transition period, it is inconceivable that there would be immediate action to change Puerto Rico's status to a new status, without a transition, given the difference between where Puerto Rico is now under fiscal laws, and where it would be under either statehood or independence.
So the transition would provide a period in which, in the purpose of transition, is to provide a period for smooth phase-in of new requirements, so that there should not be any economic or fiscal budgetary shock to either Puerto Rico or the Federal Government.
You held an oversight hearing where I think that became fairly clear, and you recognized as well that the Congress would have a great deal of discretion in accommodating the budgetary necessities of a status change.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I want to thank you, Mr. Farrow, and your colleagues. We're going to have several questions that we will submit to you, that will require some assistance from the two individuals that you have today, and we'd appreciate a prompt response.
MR. FARROW: We will do so.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: But I do want to thank the other witnesses. Senator Graham has some questions, and he will wind this up. But before he does, let me again thank those who have participated, who appeared, and who will submit more material. And those that came in from our previous hearings, I look forward to receiving, as I have indicated in the questions to the witnesses, additional material for the record.
We've heard now from the Government of Puerto Rico. We've heard from the three political parties on why Congress should consider the legislation. I think we've examined the fiscal and economic implications of any proposed status change, and that particular hearing demonstrated any status option, including the present status, cost. Whatever, frankly, Congress wants them to be, will be what the costs are. And that we have sufficient flexibility to design a transition that will not be a fiscal nightmare for either the nation or the status of Puerto Rico, if that's what the voters of Puerto Rico want.
We've also examined the issues that will need to be addressed in preparation for withdrawal of sovereignty, and found that the issues may be difficult, they be contentious, but they're not intractable. We have now examined the legislation. We've heard from the administration, and that's going to be helpful as we consider our next step.
Now, to keep speculation to a minimum, I want to say that there's no schedule at this time. I need to consult with my colleagues on both sides of the committee, Senator Bumpers, to obtain their reactions to our hearing. You'll notice that we've had some members who have been extremely interested in this, as evidenced by their attendance. Others that obviously are interested, but have other obligations as well.
So, we need to consult our colleagues on the issue of obtaining their reactions to our hearings. I need to review the material that's going to be submitted. I remain committed to putting in place a process to allow the voters in Puerto Rico an opportunity to express their aspirations. And I mean that. I appreciate the concerns with the weeks left in the session of Congress, but my commitment is to my fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, that we undertake this matter seriously, and not under artificial time constraints.
So, for the record, I want to state that one area I disagree with the administration, and that's a comment that incorporation would only occur at the time statehood is granted. Why we will not have to resolve that issue on this legislation, my personal belief is that incorporation would incur once we have completed whatever transition is necessary, assuming we proceed down that path. And I've got several reasons for that conclusion.
One is, the reason that we have concerns over the fiscal and economic consequences of statehood, is that the Constitution does not fully apply to Puerto Rico, as we've agreed.
We did not have to undertake a review of entitlement programs for tax law when we considered Alaska and Hawaii, because obviously they were under a different status than we have currently in this case. And for that matter, any other state, because the constitution fully applied to those territories in the uniformity clause limited Congress' ability to discriminate against them, and I think we've evident that by the recognition of what full incorporation means.
As we are serious about preparing Puerto Rico for eventual consideration of an administration act, if indeed we are, then we should also be serious about making Puerto Rico a part of the United States formerly. We should be prepared to end the treatment of Puerto Rico in the word of the Supreme Court. And I quote, They're very ambiguous, "foreign in a domestic sense".
I leave the audience to reflect on what those words mean, foreign in a domestic sense. Well, clearly that's unsuitable in a permanent environment.
The Constitution serves as a guarantor of our freedoms, our liberties. It's the restraint on federal actions. Congress created the economic and fiscal hurdles to stand in the way of consideration of an administration admissions act. Once these hurdles are removed, it's my belief that we owe our fellow citizens a guarantee that Congress will not create these obstacles again.
There's another reason once we have completed whatever transition is necessary, however long it's going to take, we will be in a political debate. Statehood is a political debate. It will be decided on a political basis, and Puerto Rico deserves every argument that it can obtain, for what will be an extremely difficult and extended debate.
The courts have held that incorporated territory is in "inchoate" state, one of which there has been a promise of eventual statehood". Well, these are important political arguments. In addition, once incorporated, Puerto Rico can invoke the principles of the Northwest Ordinance, and the history of this nation in dealing with those territories that have been made part of the United States.
My state of Alaska, we use those arguments as did other states, and if Puerto Rico votes to proceed down a path towards eventual consideration of statehood, and if Congress agrees, my personal belief is at some point we should allow Puerto Rico all the political arguments possible, as well as the constitutional guarantees that Congress can no longer treat it as "foreign".
That, however, will be an argument for another day and another Congress, and obviously another administration. Our job now is to review the testimony we have received, and our consider how best to allow our fellow citizens the opportunity to choose; whether they even want to request that there be a change in status. And as I've indicated throughout my comments today, and previously, my objective is to ensure that as we proceed, we adopt language that's fair, that's not weighted to favor one side or the other; and the particular structure of whatever language is a plebiscite that goes before the people of Puerto Rico.
I want to also recognize, as I did yesterday, the former governor, Luis Ferre, who's in his favorite seat there, giving advice from counsel.
Now, I'm going to ask Senator Craig to chair the balance, but I'm going to ask Senator Graham to have the first opportunity, since he's been chairman for a long time.
MR. FARROW: Mr. Chairman, if I could just, please, interject, just very briefly, and Randy may want to expand on.
I'm not sure there is much disagreement between us on the issue of incorporation.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: This is more counsel to counsel.
MR. FARROW: Yes. And, my counsel may want to add to this.
I think our point is that, when Puerto Rico is incorporated, the president would favor making Puerto Rico a state. That's a decision that will be made ultimately at that time. The House provides for the transition plan to fix the date of incorporation. Your staff has questioned whether that language is adequate to ensure that a court does not determine Puerto Rico's been incorporated before Congress intends it to. We think it generally is, but we have also provided a drafting service of more explicit language.
We'd be happy to work with the committee on what the appropriate language ought to be on the issue of incorporation. And if Randy wants to add that at all.
MR. MOSS: Only if the chairman would care for the counsel's analysis on the incorporation issue. I'm happy to leave it counsel to counsel as well.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: I'm sure we'll have that opportunity. And also, let me think on my right, Mr. Jim Bernie, who's the counsel to the committee, for his work and effort over these many months to prepare us, and others on the professional staff as well.
MR. FARROW: From my point, I would also thank him, Senator.
SENATOR MURKOWSKI: Thank you very much. If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I've got constituents that I've had in the back room for almost an hour now.
SENATOR CRAIG: Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I'll turn to Senator Graham. He's been patient, long-waiting.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you very much. And I want to commend the chairman for this excellent hearing that he conducted today, as he has throughout this process of consideration, and for his commitment to move forward. And I look forward to doing that as expeditiously as possible.
I have just one question, and it goes to the issue that I raised, before you began your remarks. And that is the issue of respect. To me, of all the scenarios that could occur, including the failure of this congress to pass any legislation authorizing a plebiscite, the most damaging scenario would be to authorize a plebiscite; have a depth of feeling of the significance and reality of that plebiscite among the people of Puerto Rico, and active participation; and then an expression of their opinion as to aspirations for the future. And whichever of those aspirations received a majority vote, then to have Congress refuse to grant that status. To me, that would have tremendously adverse effects on the relationship between the peoples of the United States of American and Puerto Rico, would have a poisoning effect throughout the hemisphere, as a reaffirmation of the lack of U.S. respect for the people of the western hemisphere.
So having stated what I think is the worse case scenario, do you have any recommendations of what might be done further in this legislation in order to enhance the moral commitment of the United States political leadership, the Congress as well as the president, to respect the judgment that the people of Puerto Rico might make through the plebiscite that we are hopefully are about to authorize?
MR. FARROW: Yes, Senator. And again, I want to thank you, on behalf of the administration, for the leadership that you, as well as Senator Craig, are exercising on this matter.
The most important step that the Congress can take in that regard, is to pass a bill, telling the people of Puerto Rico what their options are. That in itself creates a moral commitment, and I think a practical commitment.
The chairman has just raised issues about incorporation, which is something that I think we need to be careful about, that we don't take such action, that the promise of statehood has been made, and a court determines therefore that there ought to be immediate application of the uniformity clause, and application of federal taxes, without a phase-in period. I think that can be handled as we just discussed.
During the period 1989 to 1991, when the Congress deliberated on similar legislation, the Senate committee, this committee, reported a bill that was understood to be self-executing. If Puerto Ricans voted for a change in status, the status would automatically go into effect. The implementation bills were different titles of the plebiscite authorization.
The House took a different approach, and the House provided for a process that provided general definitions of the options that would be refined after Puerto Ricans voted. There would be a second vote, and then the Congress would act on the final results. Let me digress for moment to say, the option that's in H.R. 856 is very similar to what the House passed in 1990.
There was a lot of feeling in Puerto Rico that the self-executing approach was the better one, and there what was feeling on the bipartisan leadership of the House that the self-executing process was not realistic, and ultimately the bill died in committee in 1991 in the Senate. House passed a bill, as been referenced.
I remember discussing with the then speaker of the House, Tom Foley, who is very involved in constructing the House bill. And he made the point that simply by authorizing the vote, Congress has morally committed itself to the results.
I do not believe that if the Federal Government puts options before the people of Puerto Rico, it will fail at some point to respond to the people of Puerto Rico's choice. The president's position, again, is that if the people vote for a status change, he will ask the Congress to grant it.
These bills are complex in their processes, and there are some questions that still remain about the processes, in order to provide assurance to the people of Puerto Rico that the will of the people of Puerto Rico would be implemented. And the chairman raised the issue of the Fast Track procedures in the House bill, that was included in the legislation in the '89-91 process, precisely to provide some assurance that at least the full Congress, both houses, would vote on the majority petition of Puerto Rico.
We are a democratic nation. This is a major step. It has been worked on for many years. I think if we get to the point of putting a choice before the people of Puerto Rico, the United States will implement the choice. I think you're absolutely correct, it would raise serious problems domestically in our relations with Puerto Rico, and also internationally if we fail to follow through on the implicit promise we have made, not of a particular status, but to act on the will of the people of Puerto Rico.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, I wish to, again, thank the chairman, and all those who participated in today's hearing. I think it's been exceptionally helpful in moving us towards our destination. And Mr. Farrow, the president has chosen well in asking you and your colleagues to be his advisors. And I look forward to continuing to get the benefit of that good advice.
MR. FARROW: Thank you very much, Senator.
SENATOR CRAIG: Thank you very much, Senator. I'll ask that a letter from the chairman that co-chairs of the National Republican Party become a part of the record. I will also ask that my analysis of yesterday's hearing and comments in a broader statement become part of the record.
Mr. Farrow, you have already responded to a question in my absence that I was concerned and wanted the administration's position on, as it relates to the two separate citizenship's issue, and I'm pleased with your comments on that. I think that's a part of clarity in this process that we just have to give Puerto Ricans -- it's necessary. It's important.
I have no questions, but let me conclude by a couple of observations, if I can. And certainly my respect for the chairman, and these two days of hearings have been very important. And to all of you who've been willing to participate.
I would hope that we can now incorporate the work that has been done here, along with several of the requests that the chairman made, as it relates to proposals for status definitions, and writing, while ultimately we will have to make a decision on wording, and understand that.
We want as many people as possible from the differing sides to agree with us, or at least understand the meanings, so that there is a much greater sense of clarity as it relates to definition and process. So that, hopefully, no one is led astray, or confused by any action this Congress may take.
And I would hope that we could get that done, and get it done as quickly as possible. And I think the chairman has rightfully so charged certain groups with that responsibility, and I know the committee and staff will work with use to make sure that happens.
I believe -- and I just tell you, that while I've not been able to stay as long as I want in these hearings, I've monitored them very closely; reviewed the comments of yesterday, and the testimony of today. And I must tell you, that while I am very intent on the movement of S. 472, I am also intent on moving the right legislation. And I think these two days of hearings have gone a long way in doing that. And I think that if we can come to some consensus here, that we can work with the House in the final effort by the Senate to get that done.
Having said that, again, let me thank you all very much for your participation, your involvement. I and Senator Graham are working at this moment to convince our colleagues, and build a broader base for the work product that I think this committee can produce, and I am optimistic that that can be accomplished.
So with that, the committee will stand in adjournment. Thank you all very much.
"End of Proceedings As Recorded"
See Transcript of First Session, 7/14/98