Puerto Rico’s demand for more self-government received a boost Thursday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to allow for a referendum about three possible futures. However, the Senate was unlikely to take up the bill.
According to the Puerto Rico Status Act, terms are set for binding referendums on three options: U.S. independence, U.S. Statehood, or U.S. sovereignty. This is similar to Micronesia and Marshall Islands.
Raul Grijalva (Democratic Representative) was the original sponsor of the bill. He stated that regardless of whether it is approved by the Senate, the bill will continue to set an “important historical precedent” in Puerto Rico.
Grijalva stated that the legislation was intended to “tell the people of Puerto Rico, our fellow U.S citizens, that the election will be aboveboard” and would have severe consequences.
The measure passed in the Democratic-controlled House in a 233-219 vote largely along party lines.
Republicans opposed the bill, arguing that it didn’t offer an option to maintain the status quo. They also claimed it was distracting from Friday’s U.S. government shutdown.
The Caribbean island is a U.S. Territory. Its residents are U.S. Citizens, but they do not have the right to vote and can’t be represented in Congress.
There are just a few days left before Congress goes on holiday. Senators have to rush to pass the two main bills that will fund the military and government.
The legislation will be expired unless the Senate votes on the Puerto Rico bill in the next month. This is unlikely. The legislation will not be reintroduced by Republicans who control the House next year.
Puerto Rico is home to a population of 3.3 million and high levels of poverty. It was made a U.S. Territory in 1898. For decades, activists have fought for more self-determination and statehood.
Six referendums were held on this topic in the 1960s. However, they weren’t binding. Only Congress is authorized to grant statehood.