Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and Majority Leader, and Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, helped broker the agreement between Puerto Rican officials, lawmakers who support the island’s statehood, and state legislators , who have argued that the United States should support a process of self-determination for the island.
“This bill that’s on the floor today was far from certain,” Mr Grijalva said on Thursday, noting that amendments were still being negotiated about 24 hours before the vote. He added, “I am proud to be debating legislation today, a proposal that will help the people of Puerto Rico have a direct say in determining their political future.”
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, a Democrat from New York and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the House of Representatives, stated that “the voices of the Boricuas are finally being heard” as she listed Puerto Rican women who will join the ranks of the American government and society and continued to advocate for the island.
“It’s an embarrassment for the United States — the United States that is asserting itself as the leader of the free world, opposing the imperialist tyrants abroad while retaining colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific,” she said. “Congress has a moral obligation to provide the necessary tools for the transition to a new, post-colonial order.”
But Power 4 Puerto Rico, a coalition of diaspora organizations, urged lawmakers to vote no, calling the bill in a statement “a Trojan horse” that “provides only a fraction of the information masquerading as decolonization.” and completely trampling on the right of Puerto Ricans transparency and due process.”
Several Republicans also opposed the measure, with some lawmakers criticizing the Democratic majority for barring it from the final days of negotiations, arguing that there were unresolved issues about the United States’ role in helping the island transition to the voter-elected state give result.
“Just as we would expect the people of Puerto Rico to ponder their issues, understand their ramifications, and accept responsibility for their election, so should Congress,” said Arkansas Assemblyman Bruce Westerman, the top Republican of the state Natural Resources Committee. He lamented a “hasty and mysterious process” that deprived lawmakers of an opportunity to consider the bill.