(H.R. 2499) Legislation requiring Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on whether to become a state, an independent nation, or a sovereign entity that "freely associates" with the United States -- On a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to the bill
This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation requiring Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on whether to become a state, an independent nation, or a sovereign entity that "freely associates" with the United States. If Puerto Rico chose to freely associate with the United States, it would essentially become a self-governing entity, but not an independent nation. (The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is currently a territory of the United States. Since it is not a state, Puerto Rico lacks representation in the United States Senate. While Puerto Rico does elect a delegate to the House, that delegate lacks the full voting rights enjoyed by House members from the 50 states.)
The bill provided that the referendum determining Puerto Rico’s future would take place in two stages. First, voters would choose between maintaining the status quo, and changing the nature of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. Specifically, voters could choose between the following two options: “(1) Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status. If you agree, mark here XX. (2) Puerto Rico should have a different political status. If you agree, mark here XX.”
If a majority of voters chose the second option – to change Puerto Rico’s political status – a second referendum would be held. That referendum would allow Puerto Ricans to vote for independence, statehood, or free association.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: "What this bill does is celebrate democracy in Puerto Rico. I am grieved from time to time when I read that some of our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico talk about the United States treating Puerto Rico as a colony. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not interested in having colonies. I don't perceive and have never perceived the United States as an imperial power with colonies. I perceive the United States of America as priding itself on being supportive of self-determination, of being committed to the premise that people freely ought to be able to come together and determine their own status."
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) urged opposition to the resolution, arguing that it unfairly limited the number of amendments that could be offered to the bill: "It is astonishing to me to see how the Democrat leaders are denying the amendments proposed and offered by Members of their caucus. Senior Democrat Members are being limited. Their amendments were blocked. Their ability to speak and engage in debate is being restricted. And for what possible reason, Mr. Speaker? By what justification is this necessary and how is it fair?"
The House agreed to the resolution setting a time limit for debate and limiting amendments to H.R. 2499 by a vote of 222-190. 221 Democrats and 1 Republican voted "yea." 170 Republicans and 20 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House later proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation requiring Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on whether to become a state, an independent nation, or a sovereign entity that "freely associates" with the United States.