The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, under Frank
Murkowski's chairmanship, has improved the chances for
congressional approval of a self-determination bill for Puerto Rico.
The committee recently amended the House-approved bill to make
it more palatable to key senators, who have been disinclined give
Puerto Ricans the opportunity to decide their fate. The bill, which
is headed to the Senate floor, deserves approval.
The House version, which passed by a single vote in March,
outlined a 10-year, step-by-step procedure for implementing
whatever form of government Puerto Ricans chose in a referendum --
statehood, commonwealth or independence.
Mr. Murkowski's version eliminates the 10-year timetable and
leaves it to the president to devise a method of implementation and
present it to Congress at some unspecified future date.
Further, the House bill had been attacked as being worded to
favor statehood. The amended proposal takes into account the
criticism and defines statehood, commonwealth and independence in
more neutral terms.
In effect, Mr. Murkowski and his committee are suggesting that
Congress take one step at a time. The amended bill addresses key
objections of critics of the House bill. Lawmakers are running out
of reasons to delay taking a stand on this issue. They should
approve the bill after they return from their summer recess.