Congressional delegation to island: Commonwealth off the table
By John McPhaul
The U.S. congressional delegation that came to Puerto Rico over the weekend for a forum on the proposed legislation in the House of Representatives for a binding plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s political status left one overwhelming impression: that the inclusion of the commonwealth, as currently configured, in the plebiscite is off the table.
To a lesser degree, the delegation communicated that chances are currently slim that the U.S. Senate will allow statehood for Puerto Rico.
“We welcome those who favor the ‘enhancement’ of the Commonwealth that is not territorial and not colonial, and that they present that option to us,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.). “We are here to listen to those who tell us what the option of a non-territorial, non-colonial Commonwealth is.”
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago, who is also president of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP), said of the congressional delegation that “[t]hey didn’t appear receptive.”
Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, the speaker of the island House of Representatives, was also part of the PDP delegation that met with members of Congress. The contingent also included former Govs. Sila María Calderón and Alejandro García Padilla, Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández, former San Juan Mayor Héctor Luis Acevedo and former House Speaker José Ronaldo Jarabo.
Meanwhile, according to local press reports, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, recognized as “correct” the analysis of local political commentator and consultant Luis Herrero that conditions don’t exist in the U.S. Senate to pass a proposal for statehood.
However, Grijalva said he thinks the chances of passing the bill will be good in the upper chamber once legislation is passed in the full House.
Herrero said that if 51 votes don’t exist to approve the bill that offers statehood for Puerto Rico, even less possibility exists of overriding a filibuster, which requires 60 votes.
According to the press reports, the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has ruled out allowing a bill to advance that would offer statehood to Puerto Rico or Washington D.C., while the two main allies of statehood for the island in the Senate, Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have indicated that at this time the attention given to the island should be focused on its economy.
While acknowledging to reporters that the odds of passing the legislation in the Senate are long under current circumstances, Grijalva said “I want to comply with the historic responsibility,” in response to growing efforts to take action in response to dark episodes in the country’s history such as the treatment of indigenous people and colonialism on the island.