WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement after passage tonight of the Puerto Rico Democracy Act:
“All people deserve the right to determine their own future through democratic means. All people deserve equal representation in the government that makes their laws. Those are among our nation’s core principles, and they are put to the test by our relationship with Puerto Rico—the territory that, more than a century ago, marked America’s transition from a former colony to a colonial power.
“The people of Puerto Rico are subject to our laws. They hold American citizenship. They have fought bravely in every American war since World War I. Yet they have no vote in presidential elections, no representation in the Senate, and only a single representative with limited voting rights in the House—despite having a population equal to or greater than almost half of our states.
“Efforts to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status have gone on for decades. Since Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth in 1952, it has held four votes on status—but none were sanctioned by Congress. Since just the 1970s, Congress has seen the introduction of 40 different measures on this question.
“This legislation, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, takes the question of Puerto Rico’s status to its voters in at least one plebiscite. Resident Commissioner Pierluisi has taken careful steps to ensure that the plebiscite asks questions that are truly representative of the diversity of Puerto Ricans’ views on their status. The voters will be able to choose either to keep their current status or to change it. If they choose the former, they will have the option of revisiting the question every eight years. If they choose the latter, a second plebiscite will ask whether Puerto Rico ought to become independent, a sovereign nation in free association with the United States, or a state, on equal footing with the existing 50 states.
“In my view, the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States has been the byproduct of a bygone era. Today, we have recognized that America’s principles of self-determination and democracy hold true for the voters of Puerto Rico.”