House to Release Framework for Puerto Rico Consensus Bill

May 18, 2022
1:45 PM

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY, and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, supporters of two different paths toward resolving the U.S. colony’s century-old status question (Office of Rep. Nydia Velázquez/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two sources told Latino Rebels that House negotiators plan to release a framework —not a actual bill— for the consensus bill on Puerto Rico’s status as soon as late Wednesday, outlining their approach to the status debate.

A consensus bill to determine the future of Puerto Rico’s status is imminent, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) said, but sources close to the matter tell Latino Rebels that no draft has been circulated to key stakeholders in the process and that the tense negotiations over the bill’s language have hit a series of dead ends.

What will happen, sources said, is that a framework will be shared and made public some point on Wednesday.

The legislative staffer for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who is writing the bill is tasked with the difficult challenge of combining two existing bills: one that would make Puerto Rico a state, and the other that would provide a self-determination process for deciding the island’s future status.

“We’re gonna announce that collectively,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said during votes Tuesday afternoon. “We’re figuring a date but the target is this week, if not next week… but I’m not gonna get ahead of my colleagues.”

Grijalva wouldn’t say if the announcement coming soon will be of an actual bill, a set of topline priorities for the bill, or something else entirely.

What is clear is that negotiations over the bill have been tense between Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), who supports the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, and Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Jenniffer González-Colón, who supports the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.

First introduced by Velázquez in 2020, and reintroduced a year later, the new version of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act now has 76 cosponsors in the House, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other members of the progressive “Squad,” plus Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Chuy García (D-IL) and others.

The 2021 Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), now has nine cosponsors, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The new features of the current version include a multiple-choice plebiscite —in which the option would be statehood, independence, a free association, or any option other than the current territorial arrangement— and a recommendation for ranked-choice voting.

The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act —sponsored by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) along with 80 cosponsors, including Resident Commissioner González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress, and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Hoyer— looks to force Congress to begin the process of admitting Puerto Rico as the 51st state in the Union.

The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), has five cosponsors including Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“So right now we don’t have a deal,” said González-Colón, who agrees with Grijalva that there should be an announcement on the consensus bill in the next week or so.

“I think it should be binding,” González-Colón said when asked on Tuesday about her priorities for a potential consensus bill. “That’s the first one. The second one is non-territorial options. I think those two things need to be in any deal.”

González-Colón is also unequivocal in her support for statehood.

“People on the island voted for statehood in 2020 and 2012,” she said. “That’s my perspective but that’s not necessarily what’s in the compromise bill.”

On Wednesday, Hoyer worked the phones to get stakeholder feedback on the announcement.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a bill,” said a senior staffer from an office that fielded one of the House Majority Leader’s calls. “I think they just need to put something out there because there’s been a lot of talk and enough people are starting to ask about it.”

UPDATE, 18, 2022, 3:10 pm ET — Sources have told Latino Rebels that House leadership has threatened to pull any agreement if the announcement is made public prematurely.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports