PDP senator cites resident commissioner ‘absenteeism’

By John McPhaul

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Aníbal José Torres charged on Sunday that Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón was absent or did not participate in votes to which she was entitled 95 times in a 15-month period, which put her in fifth place for absenteeism among all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and made her the Hispanic congressional member with the highest number of absences at the time of voting in full committees.

“So much so that she spends her time criticizing and lamenting that she does not have the right to vote in Congress and now it turns out that, when she is allowed to vote in full committees, she decides to absent herself or not participate 95 times in just 15 months,” Torres said. “With that record, Jenniffer González obtains the embarrassing distinction of being the fifth-most absent representative of all members of Congress and the Hispanic with the highest number of absences at the time of casting their votes in the consideration of measures.”

“It is no longer enough that inaction and carelessness caused us to lose $1 billion from Medicaid,” the senator and former PDP president said.

“The offense of going on tourist trips to 38 countries outside the United States on six different continents is not enough, but now she does not vote when authorized to do so and even while in Congress, she does not appear or cast her votes. It is time for a change in Washington with a full-time commissioner and not a tourist paid with public funds.”

Beginning in 1993, the U.S. Congress has allowed the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico and the delegates of the other U.S. territories and possessions to vote in a plenary committee, Torres pointed out.

“The opportunity to participate and vote in these processes is a very effective way of inserting oneself and persuading other members to listen to arguments or ways of voting,” Torres said.

He added that according to official data, in a 15-month period the resident commissioner had the opportunity to vote 316 times, and was either absent at the time of voting or did not cast her vote a combined 95 times.

In 2019, González had the opportunity to vote 291 times, but chose not to vote 90 times, for a 31 percent voting absence rate, Torres said. The same pattern continued in the early months of 2020, because of a total of 25 eligible votes -- between January and March -- the resident commissioner chose not to vote or not to be present 20 percent of the time.

“The innumerable embarrassments that the NPP [the governing New Progressive Party] has put us through with the federal government seem to be endless,” Torres said. “Now they also extend to the federal Congress. Those who said that there were no funds for being a commonwealth now say that there is money to spare and those who complained that they could not vote like the rest of the congressmen, now they do not appear when that benefit is granted to them. Obviously, the incapacity and negligence of this government has no limits.”

Later on Sunday, González defended herself.

In a written statement, the resident commissioner said “it is a fact that when Acevedo Vilá was resident commissioner during Congresses 107 and 108 from 2001 to 2005, he did not have the right to vote on the floor. Therefore, we do not have a public record of all Acevedo Vilá’s absences as resident commissioner. Now, everyone remembers how in 2004 Aníbal was called the Absent Commissioner because he was always in Puerto Rico for other duties without any relation to the well-being of the people ”.

“In any case, this vote on the floor that is currently being given is symbolic, even the Democrats took away that right they gave to vote during the pandemic, which shows that even that granting of the vote was not a serious management. to assert ourselves to the representatives of the territories”, indicated the resident commissioner in written statements.

“There is really no comparison between the productivity of the legislative measures of my tenure as resident commissioner versus that of Acevedo Vilá. I have presented twice as many bills as Acevedo Vilá, 16 times more than Acevedo Vilá amendments of my authorship, 10 times more amendments of my authorship approved in the Rules Committee to go to the plenary session, 19 times more sponsored amendments approved by the Chamber , 7 times more amendments of my authorship that became law and to finalize more than double the total of enacted measures approved (bills of my authorship and amendments in the House) than Acevedo Vilá. The truth is that the legislative statistics in the Acevedo Vilá Congress are embarrassing to others,” she said.

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