Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, today, I'm pleased to introduce the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act (H.R. 856). This landmark legislation will end 100 years of uncertainty for the people of Puerto Rico and allow them to determine the political status for themselves and future generations.
The text of the legislation is identical to the updated version of the bill introduced as H.R.4281 in the 104th Congress on September 28, 1996. This bill reflects the efforts of many of my colleagues during the last 2 years to formulate a fair, clear, and complete process that will once and for all, provide for the final resolution of Puerto Rico's political status. This is the starting point in the process which is long overdue and the people of Puerto Rico deserve.
The Legislature of Puerto Rico has once again asked the Congress to take action to resolve Puerto Rico's political status. Two weeks ago, a bipartisan delegation from Puerto Rico personally delivered copies of the resolution, asking the 105th Congress--and I quote:
"to respond to the Democratic aspirations of the American citizens of Puerto Rico in order to attain a process which will guarantee the prompt decolonization of Puerto Rico, through a plebiscite sponsored by the Federal Government, which shall be held no later than 1998."
This bill answers the Legislature's request by providing for a vote on Puerto Rico's political status before December 31, 1998.
As the only Representative from Alaska--a State that made the transition from territorial status to full self-government--I know first hand that the process does work. This bill provides the process by which Congress and the residents of Puerto Rico define and approve politically acceptable options through a multi-staged Democratic process. This allows for the political will of the United States and Puerto Rico to be determined freely and democratically.
The U.S. Congress and the President have a moral obligation to act so the people of Puerto Rico can finally resolve their status. We are taking action today by re-introducing the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act. Today marks the beginning of a historic effort by the Congress to actually solve Puerto Rico's political status.
I appreciate the strong bipartisan support for this legislation by such a large number of Members of Congress during the 104th Congress, and now in the 105th Congress. I particularly want to thank Speaker Gingrich for his involvement and support of this measure since its inception. Puerto Rico's delegate, Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barcelo, has been working side-by-side with the sponsors of this bill, and his cooperation and leadership has been critical to this endeavor. My colleague from New York, Jose Serrano, has also been particularly supportive and helpful in this process. I also want to thank Chairman Gallegly, Chairman Gilman, Chairman Burton, Chairman Pombo, and Mr. Kennedy from Rhode Island for their outstanding efforts to address Puerto Rico throughout the 104th Congress; Chairman Solomon of the Rules Committee for his excellent work on the fast track procedures, as well as all the other distinguished co-sponsors for both political parties.
Resolving Puerto Rico's political status is a top priority of the Committee on Resources Oversight Plan for the 105th Congress. The leadership of the House also recognizes this as a matter of the highest priority.
To demonstrate the commitments of this Congress to act quickly on this matter, three hearings have been scheduled on this legislation. The first will be held in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 19, 1997 to enable the leaders of the Government of Puerto Rico and the political parties to express their views regarding their preferred status. I will also ask the Clinton administration to present their formal position regarding the legislation at this hearing. In addition, two hearings will be conducted in Puerto Rico, the first in San Juan on April 19 and the second in Mayaguez on April 21.
Return to Committee on Resources Home Page