WASHINGTON, D.C. — When asked by Latino Rebels on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wouldn’t say if she’ll vote for the Puerto Rico Status Act she helped negotiate. Whether she supports the bill or not will likely decide the legislation’s fate in the current Congress.
After months of negotiations to bring together the congressional factions supporting two competing status bills, the Puerto Rico Status Act would offer Puerto Ricans a binding plebiscite with three options: statehood, free association, or independence.
The House Natural Resources Committee voted 25-20 to advance the bill out of markup on Wednesday afternoon after a long and grueling debate over 29 amendments ranging from defunding the bill completely to requiring Puerto Rico’s government operations be in English. Other amendments proposed by the committee’s Republican members included adding the current territorial status to the list of options on the plebiscite, adding “None of the Above” as an option, and halting the statehood process until Puerto Rico pays off its public debt.
The amendments were ultimately voted down by Democrats on the committee and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Puerto Rico’s member of Congress who is afforded a vote on committees but not on the House floor.
“I would be opposed to any effort to include the (current) territorial status,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, told José Delgado at El Nuevo Nía. “The key intention of this bill would be lost.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told Latino Rebels on Thursday that he anticipates bringing the bill to a vote on the House floor, but needed to check in with Chairman Grijalva first to coordinate the particulars.
Two sources close to the bill have since told Latino Rebels that House leadership plans to bring the bill to a vote next Thursday, assuming Ocasio-Cortez or other key Democrats don’t drop their support for the bill before then.
Democratic Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL) and Rashida Tlaib (MI) surprised many political watchers by ultimately voting against the bill during Wednesday’s markup. Their defections sent Democratic leadership in the House, along with González-Colón, scrambling to find GOP votes to offset the defections.
Tlaib told El Nuevo Día on Thursday that she voted against the bill at the behest of Puerto Ricans in her district. García indicated that his opposition to the bill was based on his belief that the process could be more transparent, a position that Ocasio-Cortez is rumored to share.
Ocasio-Cortez told Latino Rebels earlier this month that she “absolutely” wants at least one public hearing on Capitol Hill for the bill before it proceeds to the House floor, a demand that Grijalva has so far been unwilling to entertain.
Grijalva tells Latino Rebels that the public input forum held last month on the island were sufficient to proceed. “We need to get it done by the end of this month if we’re going to do it,” Grijalva said.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on Ocasio-Cortez, whose support or defection from the bill she helped negotiate will likely decide the bill’s ultimate fate in the House of Representatives.
Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports