The US House of Representatives Thursday passed the Puerto Rico Status Act, which would allow Puerto Ricans to vote on whether they wish to become the 51st US state, an independent country, or a sovereign government associated with the US. The bill’s passage was bipartisan, garnering the support of 217 Democrats and 16 Republicans. 191 representatives, all Republican, voted against the bill.
The bill, HR 8393, proposes a popular vote in Puerto Rico be held on November 5, 2023. In the vote, Puerto Ricans will be asked to select one of three options: US statehood, independence or sovereignty while remaining associated with the US. The bill lays out transition and implementation provisions depending on which of the three options garners the most votes.
Following the vote, Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) posted a photo with the final vote count to Twitter with the caption, “We did it!” Velázquez was elected to her post as the first Puerto Rican woman in the House and cosponsored the Puerto Rico Status Act.
Puerto Rico first became a US territory in 1898. It currently has a population of about 3.3 million people, who are all technically US citizens. However, Puerto Ricans have no formal representation in US Congress aside from a non-voting resident commissioner. Previous efforts to introduce Puerto Rican statehood failed.
The bill was first introduced in July by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Since the bill gained approval from the House, it now needs approval from the Senate and the president’s signature to become law. President Joe Biden Thursday signaled his support of the bill, stating that the bill “would take a historic step towards righting this wrong by establishing a process to ascertain the will of the voters of Puerto Rico.”
The US Congress only sits for another week before leaving for Christmas recess. When sessions resume, a new Congress will be sworn in and Republicans will take control of the House. At that point, any pending legislation would have to start anew.