HR 856


March 19, 1997



We are here this morning to receive testimony from the three political parties in Puerto Rico as well as the Administration regarding HR 856, the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act.


This issue and its resolution is of great importance not only to the 3 .4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico but to ALL of us as Americans. It tells us that this Congress has a moral obligation to seriously consider all aspects surrounding status. This bill will mandate that a vote be taken in one year's time to decide a political status option for the future. The options in the bill are between the current status of commonwealth admittance into the union as the 51st state or an independent nation.


This is not a symbolic exercise. We can not demand a vote by Federal law and then refuse to carry out the wishes of the voters. If you are not willing to offer commonwealth, statehood, or independence, then we must not proceed further with this bill. To the voters of Puerto Rico I pledge that I will do all that I can to make sure that what is written into law will become reality if you so chose and within a reasonable transition period.


As many of you know I was not a cosponsor of similar legislation last year, I am however, a cosponsor of HR 856 because important changes have been made. A major concern is that the political parties have the opportunity to submit what they believe to be appropriate definitions for their status option. A request went out from Chairman Young and myself, and I expect to see definitions at the end of the month These will be given serious consideration and Congress will ultimately determine the definitions.


During the hearing and mark up process, I will address the transition time frame for I believe the "minimum of 10 years" now in the bill is far too long. The voters of Puerto Rico deserve to know that we are serious in offering this status plebiscite, and that the transition to a new status, should that be chosen, will occur expeditiously.


I want to commend my colleagues, Chairman Young and Resident Commissioner Romero-Barcelo for keeping this important issue before us. I also serve on the Economic and Education Opportunities Committee with Carlos where he has taught me much about the way education programs are extended in Puerto Rico.


I thank all those here this morning and look forward to what I'm sure will be a lively and enlightening debate.

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