What: All Issues : War & Peace : (H.R. 2499) On an amendment that would have delayed consideration of legislation dealing with Puerto Rico's status until the federal government "receives an official proposal from the people of Puerto Rico to revise the current relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States" (2010 house Roll Call 240)
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(H.R. 2499) On an amendment that would have delayed consideration of legislation dealing with Puerto Rico's status until the federal government "receives an official proposal from the people of Puerto Rico to revise the current relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States"
house Roll Call 240     Apr 29, 2010
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) that would have delayed consideration of legislation dealing with Puerto Rico's status until the federal government "receives an official proposal from the people of Puerto Rico to revise the current relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States that was made through a democratically held process by direct ballot." The underlying bill required Puerto Rico to choose from three options in a referendum: statehood, independence, or sovereignty in "free association" 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.) As amended, the bill also allowed Puerto Rico to choose to continue its commonwealth status. (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 underlying 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, free association, or continuing its current commonwealth status.

Velázquez urged members to support her amendment: "The amendment that I am offering will honor the concept of self-determination. This amendment empowers the people of Puerto Rico to submit their own proposal for moving forward. The amendment expresses the sense of Congress that we should not proceed until we have heard from those most affected by this debate, the Puerto Rican people. The residents of Puerto Rico should exercise freely and without congressional interference."

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) argued the amendment would have undermined the effort to resolve the question of Puerto Rico's status: "…This amendment does nothing to further the goal of H.R. 2499, which is to provide the people of Puerto Rico with a federally recognized process to allow them to freely express their wishes regarding their future political status in a congressionally recognized referendum."

The House rejected Velázquez's amendment by a vote of 171-223. 116 Republicans and 55 Democrats voted "yea." 175 Democrats -- including a majority of the most progressive members -- and 48 Republicans voted "nay." As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have delayed consideration of legislation dealing with Puerto Rico's status until the federal government "receives an official proposal from the people of Puerto Rico to revise the current relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States that was made through a democratically held process by direct ballot."

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