(H.R. 2499) On an amendment allowing Puerto Rico to choose "none of the above" in a referendum determining the nature of its association (or lack there of) with the United States - in addition to allowing Puerto Rico to choose statehood, independence, continuing its commonwealth status, or sovereignty in "free association" with the United States
This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) allowing Puerto Rico to choose "none of the above" in a referendum determining the nature of its association (or lack there of) with the United States. 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 current 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.) Gutierrez's amendment would have added "none of the above" as an additional option. In a referendum held in 1999 in Puerto Rico, voters chose "none of the above" over statehood, independence, or free association.
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.
Gutierrez urged support for his amendment: "They [the Democratic leadership] have this thing rigged from the beginning to the end. If not, if they were so faithful to the wishes, to the will, to the passion of the self-determination of the people of Puerto Rico, why aren't they including the very option that won? They say they respect the decision of American citizens on the island of Puerto Rico and we should give them an opportunity to express themselves freely in a referendum. Guess what? They did. And yet we reject the very option that they chose for themselves."
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) argued that allowing for a "none of the above" option could allow the issue of Puerto Rico's political future to remain unresolved: "'None of the above' is the ultimate and unnecessary escape clause. The proposal for its inclusion on the ballot suggests that there exists some other option for permanently resolving Puerto Rico's status in a manner compatible with the U.S. Constitution beyond the three options of independence, sovereignty in association with the United States, or statehood. Such a belief defies the conclusions of the international community, the courts, and the executive branch."
The House rejected Gutierrez's amendment by a vote of 164-236. 118 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted "yea." 187 Democrats -- including a majority of the most progressive members -- as well as 49 Republicans voted "nay." As a result, the House rejected an amendment allowing Puerto Rico to choose "none of the above" in a referendum determining the nature of its association (or lack there of) with the United States - in addition to allowing Puerto Rico to choose statehood, independence, continuing its current common wealth status, or sovereignty in "free association" with the United States.