Press Release, Committee on Resources, U.S.
Contact: Steve Hansen (202) 225-7749
To: National Desk/International Affairs Reporter
October 9, 1997

Congressional Leaders Agree On Modified "Commonwealth" Status Definition In Puerto Rico Political Status Act

Washington, D.C. - The top Republican and Democrat Member of the U.S. House Committee on Resources today agreed upon a modified version of the "commonwealth" status definition which will be part of the "United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act" ( H.R. 856).

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) proposed a new commonwealth definition which was then jointly modified by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barceló and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) during a meeting this afternoon.

This new definition and technical changes negotiated with the Clinton Administration will be included in an amended version of the bill when it comes to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This broadens and deepens the bipartisan support for this important legislation to finally resolved Puerto Rico's political status," said Young, the Chairman of the House Committee on Resources, which has jurisdiction over the legislation. "We are, and will, continue our efforts to bring this legislation for a vote by the full House at the earliest possible time.

"This was a good, constructive meeting between the Congressional authors of the Puerto Rico bill which continues the tradition of bipartisan cooperation on insular issues in the U.S. Congress."

The Modified Commonwealth Definition

Young said the modified commonwealth definition is:

1) Puerto Rico is joined in a relationship under the national sovereignty of the United States. It is the policy of the Congress that this relationship should only be dissolved by mutual consent.

2) Under this relationship, Puerto Rico like a State is an autonomous political entity, sovereign over matters not ruled by the Constitution of the United States. In the exercise of this sovereignty, the laws of the Commonwealth shall govern in Puerto Rico to the extent that they are consistent with the Constitution, treaties and laws of the United States. Congress retains its Constitutional authority to enact laws it deems necessary relating to Puerto Rico.

3) Persons born in Puerto Rico have United States citizenship by statute as secured by the Constitution. It is the policy of the United States that citizenship will continue to be granted to persons born in Puerto Rico. The rights, privileges and immunities provided for by the United States Constitution apply in Puerto Rico, except where limited by the Constitution to citizens residing in a State.

4) Puerto Rico will continue to participate in federal programs and may be enabled to participate equally with the States in the programs where it is not now participating equally contingent on the payment of contributions, which may include payment of taxes, as provided by federal law.

The United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act

H.R. 856 was approved by the House Resources Committee in May 1997 by a 44 to 1 vote. It will allow the people of Puerto Rico to decide the future of their island. The Puerto Rican people will decide upon

  • 1) Statehood,
    2) Commonwealth, or
    3) Separate Sovereignty.

Young is the prime sponsor of the legislation, which includes broad bipartisan support from nearly 90 members including:

  • Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Speaker of the House
  • Puerto Rico's Democrat Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barceló
  • Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Majority Whip
  • Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Chairman, International Relations Committee
  • Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Chairman, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere
  • Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman, Government Reform and Oversight
  • Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL)
  • Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO), House Minority Leader
  • Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), House Minority Whip
  • Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Resources
  • Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY)
  • Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)

For more information, please check the House Committee on Resources Home Page at

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback