Press Release
For Immediate Release: 
May 19, 2022
Contact Info: 
Margaret Mulkerrin 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) held a press conference with bipartisan House Members and the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro R. Pierluisi, to announce details of the Puerto Rico Status Act that will allow the people of Puerto Rico to determine their political future. Below is a transcript of his opening remarks and a link to the livestream of the press conference:
 
Click here for a link to the video.
 
“Good morning or good afternoon, I guess. We’re a little late starting but we’re pleased to be here and I am very pleased to be here with all of my colleagues. I want to start by saying I went to Puerto Rico for the first time in 1976, when I was the President of the Maryland Senate. There was a meeting of legislators in Puerto Rico and I fell in love with Puerto Rico. Ten years later, I was in the Congress of the United States and became an advocate of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico.

“But more than that, I am a supporter of the Puerto Rican people determining their own status and their own destiny. And I think that's what everybody here agrees on, totally, [and] that is, the Puerto Rican people that will ultimately make this decision, hopefully with the strong support of the Congress of the United States.

“First, therefore, I want to thank my colleagues and our former colleague and now Governor Pedro Pierluisi, for being here today and we expect the Governor to be here before this press conference ends to discuss the historic progress being made toward enabling the people of Puerto Rico to choose their future status. And when I say very hard work, everybody here has worked hard, diligently, candidly and honestly, to achieve this objective, and I want to thank all of them.

“After months of negotiations, the Puerto Rican Status Act represents an effort by the sponsors of several different bills to come together and arrive at a compromise that would be supported by a majority of Members. I want to commend our Members who have been working on this issue for years. I believe the bill represents what can be achieved when both sides come together, negotiate in good faith, and reach a consensus on an issue that is important to us and to the people of Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rican people do not want to be a colony and the United States of America does not want to be a colonialist power. This legislation seeks to address that issue. However, it is just the first step in the legislative process. I want to emphasize that – first step. I want to stress that we are sharing the discussion draft today in order to provide transparency and to solicit input from the people of Puerto Rico before conducting a markup or moving legislation to the House floor.

“The chairman of the Committee that has jurisdiction, Mr. Grijalva from Arizona, will be discussing that I know as to his intention as to how that will be done. In its broadest terms, the discussion draft embodies a central principle, and I will repeat again and again: the people of Puerto Rico must decide the future for themselves. Congress has the power and responsibility to initiate and facilitate that process. Most importantly, unlike prior plebiscites, our legislation will implement the will of the clear majority of the Puerto Rican people.

“Key elements of this compromise to give Puerto Rico self-determination include the finding the Puerto Rico's non-territorial status options on the ballot, which are: independence, sovereignty, and free association with the United States of America for statehood, laying out of the transition and implementation process for each option, providing for an objective nonpartisan, federally-funded voter education campaign leading up to the vote. That has been very important to all the Members and I thank them. I have been discussing it both with all of these members, how important it was to make sure that the Puerto Rican people understand the consequences of each of the alternatives.

“We recognize the unique relationship with the United States since 1898. That's why it was important to us to input the provisions supporting Puerto Rico's transition to independence, or sovereignty and free association with the United States should a majority of voters in Puerto Rico choose either of those options. Lastly, the draft legislation tackles some of the hardest questions in order to implement the choice of the voters including citizenship status, benefits accrued by residents of the territory of Puerto Rico for various U.S. federal programs, including Social Security, as well as travel and work in the United States if Puerto Ricans choose an option other than statehood. Let me say this: all compromises in all compromises. Not everyone is getting everything they want. That is the definition of compromise. Everyone had to yield on something and I'm so thankful to our Members for their commitment because they felt so important the reaching of a compromise which would give the citizens of Puerto Rico a choice that then would be implemented; a real choice.

“This is compromise with a clear purpose: to give the people of Puerto Rico that choice that I just spoke of. They deserve to build the future they want. As I've said many times before, I hope they choose statehood, but most important, I believe in self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico and all peoples. These decisions are not up to me, or to the Congress, or other elected officials in Washington.

“Our responsibility is to offer the people of Puerto Rico a choice, the information they need to make it and then our commitment to implement. That's critically important, to implement whatever decision they make. That decision about their future must be made by them. I look forward to comments about the legislation and working with Members to bring this bill to the Floor. I would now like to recognize my friend and the Chairman of the Natural Resources committee that has jurisdiction over this issue and has worked so hard and whose leadership was absolutely critical to get us to this end. The Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Mr. Raul Grijalva.”