With very little time left in the session of the 117th Congress, the United States House of Representatives Majority Leader, Representative Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland announced that the Puerto Rico Status Act, HR 8393, would be brought to a vote. The announcement comes after months of no action on the bill, and its apparent shelving, following its approval in the US House Committee on Natural Resources. Since then, efforts to amend the bill have apparently stalled progress.
The news of the vote comes after rumors of changes to the bill spread, including those that would change clauses of US citizenship under the free association independence option, specifically ensuring that US citizenship would still pass on to those born after the signing of a compact of free association if one of the parents is a US citizen. Other asks included requiring majority support for a status option before any changes, and the invitation of international observers.
Notably, former Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila (PDP, D), who has staunchly opposed any efforts to resolve the territory’s status, and other officials who have stated their support for Puerto Rico’s sovereignty, came out in support of the bill if the rumored changes were implemented. This represents a significant shift in their position since in Puerto Rico, those who stated their support for sovereignty would not even admit that that meant independence.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D), who supports statehood, will be in Washington, DC for the vote. If passed, the bill would be the first time a chamber of Congress adopts a bill involving Puerto Rico’s status that excludes the current territorial status as an option.
That said, even though the fact that there will be a vote implies a strong chance there will be enough votes to pass the bill, with such little time left in the current session, and no stated interest in the US Senate to take up the measure, it is all but certain HR 8393 will not become law this term.
Now with Republicans set to take over the House come January, the issue of Puerto Rico’s status will likely not get much attention for the next two years after the vote.