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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor hopes to meet with chair of US House panel on status bill

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Tuesday that he will go to Washington later this week for the reintroduction of the status bill in Congress by Reps. Nydia Margarita Velázquez Serrano (D-N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón.

The governor also hopes at some point to meet with the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ariz.), to get an idea of what amendments he would be willing to accept so that the measure leaves committee and is voted on in the plenary.

“It is important that this dialogue takes place, to know if he wants to modify the bill that will be filed in any measure, and then be able to discuss that with Congressman Westerman,” Pierluisi said in a press conference. “He is the one who can schedule a public hearing for the bill and that would be the next step. But dialogue with the chairman of the committee is key. It is important to know what kind of objection you have to the bill and if any of your concerns can be addressed.”

Westerman has said publicly that if he were to approve a status bill for Puerto Rico, the territory should be included as one of the choices in a congressionally binding referendum. Asked if he would be willing to accept that the territory be included in the vote, the governor replied that “what I want to know is if you [Westerman] are willing to approve this measure in exchange for one or another modification. That’s not clear. He could have expressed himself publicly, but we must discuss with the chairman of the committee, what amendments, if any, he would favor and allow the vote in committee.”

If Westerman is willing to take the bill out of committee if the territory is included in the vote, would you be willing to evaluate that possibility? the governor was asked.

“At this stage I will not be suggesting any amendments to the bill,” Pierluisi said. “I approved it as it was approved in the last Congress. What happens is that … I am willing to enter into a dialogue with the chairman of the committee to see if we can get the bill seen and approved in committee and then reach the plenary of the House. I’m not going to advance criteria or positions, because that’s what the dialogue with the chairman of the committee is for.”

Pierluisi will leave for Washington this afternoon and will attend several meetings on Thursday.

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