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It is my understanding that the process of negotiation and compromise which resulted in a successful markup in the Interior Committee resembled a combination of the Budget Summit and German Reunification. It is not our intention here today to do anything which would interfere with the substantive jurisdiction of the Interior Committee or the agreements which have been carefully crafted on this important piece of legislation.
It would be my hope that the Subcommittee on Rules would forward the bill, along with an amendment in the nature of a substitute identical to the text approved by the Interior Committee, to the full Rules Committee with a favorable recommendation.
The jurisdiction of the Committee on Rules over this bill derives from various procedural provisions affecting the Rules of the House.
Specifically, several sections of H.R. 4765 and the Interior Committee substitute mandate certain actions by Congress and its committees in the consideration of legislation in the 102d Congress, in 1992, to implement the results of the Puerto Rican referendum.
The referendum, authorized by the bill before us today, is expected to occur on September 16, 1991.
H.R. 4765 contains expedited procedures to implement whichever status option-a new commonwealth relationship, statehood or independence—is freely selected by the people of Puerto Rico.
While the Rules Committee is not enamored of expedited procedures or other procedures which function outside the normal Rules of the House, in this case their inclusion will serve to reassure the people of Puerto Rico that Congress will act if Puerto Rico votes by a majority for one of the status options.
The Interior Committee and the Rules Committee consulted on the procedural language which was adopted by the Interior Committee in its substitute amendment.
I would note that it is unlikely that the future implementing legislation following the referendum would actually be called up using this expedited procedure. We would almost certainly use the normal procedures of the House, giving the legislation a rule from the Rules Committee and providing for its orderly scheduling and consideration on the House floor.
But regardless of any technical details about process which might be employed in the future, with passage of H.R. 4765 the people of Puerto Rico have the commitment of the House and Senate to move forward in the next Congress to give their decision in the referendum the force of law.
With that, we will hear from the Honorable Jerry Solomon, who has an opening statement. OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. GERALD B.H. SOLOMON, RANK
ING MINORITY MEMBER OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Chairman, I will be very, very brief. I want to welcome the Members here who will be testifying, particularly Ron de Lugo and Bob Lagomarsino, whom I participated with when I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee. A number of years ago, we were dealing with the status of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands,
and Palau; and this is a similar thing that we are doing here today concerning Puerto Rico. So I want to commend you two, as a matter of fact all of you, for your support of this legislation which is now before us.
Let me just say that I think back to 1985 when I was a delegate to the United Nations, and I will never forget a heated debate I had there at the time. I made the American presentation on the issue of self-determination, and several representatives from other countries were responding to my presentation. An ambassador from the Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan was particularly incensed at my criticism of the Soviet Union and the lack of self-determination allowed to the Baltic States and other peoples who were under the heel of the Soviet Union at the time.
And this Afghan puppet started ranting and raving about what he called the “colonial subjugation” of Puerto Rico. Needless to say, I set the record straight for him. But I will never forget how ludicrous it was for a representative from the Soviet Union to be professing concern about U.S. relations with Puerto Rico.
That U.S./Puerto Rico relationship has been evolving for a long, long time. And I am sure I speak for every member of this committee on both sides of the aisle when I say that we are asking for just one thing: that the people of Puerto Rico exercise their right of self-determination via the ballot box in a fair referendum. I think that is what we are here for today, and I really do commend all of you for your efforts.
Mr. MOAKLEY. Mr. Pashayan.
Mr. PASHAYAN. I should like to join with the sentiments expressed by both my colleagues, and I look forward to the ideas that our colleagues and others will present today, and we shall see what developments take place.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
you. The first witnesses to be heard by the subcommittee will be the Honorable Ron de Lugo of the Virgin Islands, chairman of the Subcommittee on Insular and International Affairs, and the Honorable Robert Lagomarsino from California, the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Insular and International Affairs. Gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF HON. RON de LUGO, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
I want to thank you for your opening statement. That statement was not a routine opening statement; that was a statement of a chairman who understands the sensitivity of this matter. You said a lot of wise things, Mr. Chairman. Mr. MOAKLEY. I have been talking to you for a little bit.
Mr. DE LUGO. I am happy to learn that I didn't confuse you; you are still on a straight course.
Let me thank you for responding so quickly to our request for action on this legislation and for having your staff work so closely with our committee in the development of it.
I think one statement you made in particular was very important. It concerns the expedited procedures that are included in the bill, that were worked out with your committee, and that are, in substance, a change in the House rules. As you said, we really are probably not going to use them. This is indicated by the way that this legislation was developed: in a bipartisan manner with consensus.
If Bob Lagomarsino and I hadn't worked together on this, the bill wouldn't be before you today. We have been able to get the competing political parties in Puerto Rico together, which is a miracle of no small magnitude, I assure you. Many people, including just about all the leaders in Puerto Rico, felt that what we have accomplished could not be achieved.
But we were able to get everyone together, and one of the reasons was our approach to this issue is very different from the approach taken by a Senate committee. That approach is embodied in Š. 712, which would actually mandate changes in law related to the three political statuses before the referendum among the statuses took place. That bill says: well, this is exactly what is going to be done if you vote for each of the statuses; the Congress would have no opportunity to respond to the people's decision in the referendum. Our bill, of course, would not do that. It would give the people of Puerto Rico a choice among the statuses in a referendum, the opportunity to tell us what status they want.
Then, it provides that the Congress will respond to their needs. In doing so we will develop legislation to implement the selected status in consultation with the political parties.
Mr. Chairman, I have a statement, and it is an excellent statement that has been written for me by my staff, and I say that, because I have read it, and I didn't make a single change, and I will just put that in the record, and I want to save the committee's time.
Mr. MOAKLEY. Without objection, the entire statement of the gentleman from the Virgin Islands will appear in the record.
[Mr. de Lugo's prepared statement follows:) PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. RON DE LUGO, CHAIRMAN OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON
INSULAR AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members, I want to begin by thanking you for your willingness to act so promptly on this legislation and for your cooperation in developing it. As you know, the presidents of Puerto Rico's three political parties last year asked the Federal Government to authorize a political status referendum and commit to act afterwards on implementing legislation. The party in power wants to enhance the current commonwealth. One of the other parties wants statehood; the other independence. For years now, the divisive debate on Puerto Rico's future political status has effectively prevented action on many of the very serious social and economic problems facing our 3.6 million fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. So, I supported the parties' proposal. It was also supported by President Bush, who personally endorsed it in his State of the Union address last year.
A bill that was narrowly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, however, was far different from what had been proposed. S. 172 would have the Federal Government unilaterally dictate details of the status options before the Puerto Rican people decide on a status and it would then automatically implement the status that won a referendum next year. As the Washington Post recognized, that bill was so skewed that it would be better to enact no bill at all
and that would be a tragedy for the United States as well as Puerto Rico. Speaker Foley, Chairman Udall of the full Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and other Members expressed serious concerns about S. 712. So later, Mr. Chair
man, you joined me in introducing a bill that had a real chance of enabling the people of Puerto Rico to exercise self-determination.
The bill had the expressed support of the Speaker and the Minority Leader. Its other sponsors included Ranking Republican Lagomarsino and a bipartisan majority of my subcommittee, including Resident Commissioner Jaime Fuster of Puerto Rico; Chairman Udall and Ranking Republican Young of our full committee; and Ranking Republican Quillen of your full committee.
H.R. 4765 would authorize a referendum and require development of legislation on a status that wins majority support. It would commit Congress to vote on the legislation in 1992 and then make the effectiveness of that bill contingent upon approval by the people of Puerto Rico in a second referendum.
With a substitute supported by the White House and all three parties in Puerto Rico, our bill was approved by our full committee last week by a vote of 37 to 1. There is one difference between the substitute and the introduced bill that I want to mention. The substitute includes a compromise worked out with Representatives Serrano, Rangel, and Green that would grant Puerto Rico authority to enable Puerto Ricans who live away from the island to vote in the referendum provided that at least two of Puerto Rico's three parties agree.
This compromise was difficult to reach between those who want Congress to mandate that the 2.5 million non-resident Puerto Ricans vote in the referendum and those who totally oppose non-resident voting. Let me expand for just a moment on the provisions of this bill of most interest to this subcommittee: those that relate to consideration of the bill that would implement the status selected in the referendum.
These provisions would require our committee to develop this legislation by March 6, 1992; provide that committees could be discharged from consideration of the legislation if they had not reported it within 181 days; and provide for floor consideration 15 days after being reported or discharged by all committees. These provisions are an essential part of the bill because they would assure the Puerto Rican people that the Congress would respond to their status decision. They have made it possible for Puerto Rico's leaders to support our approach to resolving the status question-as opposed to the automatic implementation approach proposed by the Senate committee bill under which the Congress would act before the people of Puerto Rico had decided on a future status.
The United States took Puerto Rico by force 92 years ago and with it responsibility for a political status problem with which Spain was grappling. Our Nation has been committed to further self-determination for Puerto Rico ever since the current commonwealth relationship was established in 1952. We have not, though, explained how such a decision could be made and put into effect. This history has frustrated those who believed in the commonwealth relationship; convinced other Puerto Ricans that statehood is the answer; and strengthened the nationalistic convictions of still others who want independence.
The Puerto Rican people deserve answers to their questions about how their relationship with the United States can be developed. Providing them is how we can make our Nation's commitment to self-determination meaningful.
H.R. 4765 would provide these answers. It is a bill with a realistic chance of leading to Puerto Rican self-determination. I urge your subcommittee to approve it.
Mr. MOAKLEY. The Honorable Robert Lagomarsino.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. LAGOMARSINO. I would ask that my statement be made a part of the record also.
Mr. MOAKLEY. Without objection.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Mr. Chairman, you observed that the negotiations on this were like German Reunification or the Budget Summit. It may be that that is the way it ended up, and the way we hope that the Budget Summit ends up, but I would say that when it started, it was more like the Cambodian Summit negotiations, but here we are, and thanks in no small part to Ron de Lugo and his staff, and with all modesty, my staff. They worked very, very hard. There were times when it appeared that this whole
thing was going nowhere, that we reached impasses that couldn't be overcome.
But even when Ron de Lugo was in the hospital, twice, more seriously ill than he realized perhaps, he kept working on it. And finally at least we are here.
The whole issue here, Mr. Chairman and members, is self-determination. We see countries all over the world exercising self-determination. Last night I attended a dinner for the new President of Bulgaria. Four months ago no one would ever have predicted that this gentleman would be President. The same thing has happened all over the world.
So that is the whole thing here. And even more important is the fact that we are talking about American citizens. Mr. Solomon mentioned Micronesia, and that was very important and we all worked together on that, and I think we accomplished a lot, even though it hasn't been finalized, but they were not American citizens, so this is even more important.
And as the chairman said, the Senate approach is quite different. I think there is some merit to that, we are obviously way, way too late to try that, we will never be able to come to an agreement on all the specific terms and conditions, the three status options.
But if we go the other option, as this one does where we would negotiate with the winning side in a plebiscite, then it is very, very important I think to show in every way that we can that we are serious about this, that there is a provision that Congress will have to exercise that option, will have to deal with it, will have to seriously consider legislation.
I would agree that it would never come to that; I think we will be able to negotiate and come to a satisfactory agreement, at least to present something to the Congress.
So again, I want to thank all of you for expediting this. It is extremely important. I think it may be in retrospect, although no one is paying much attention to it now, it may be one of the most important things this Congress does. [Mr. Lagomarsino's prepared statement follows:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, RANKING MINORITY
MEMBER OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INSULAR AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Mr. Chairman: It is an honor to appear before your subcommittee. I want to thank you for your prompt consideration of this very important legislation, H.R. 4765, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act. I believe this legislation to be one of the most important pending before Congress. It deals directly with the political and civil rights of 32 million U.S. citizens. Both the Constitution and the Treaty of Paris by which the United States assumed sovereignty over Puerto Rico specifically charge the Congress with the responsibility over territorial matters. Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, provides Congress with the exclusive authority and direct responsibility to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and possessions of the United States. Article IX of the 1898 Treaty of Paris states: "The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress.”
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, H.R. 4765 is a significant measure which will advance the fulfillment of congressional obligations under the Constitution and the Treaty of Paris. The legislation provides a two-stage process for the resolution of the political status of Puerto Rico. The first stage authorizes a referendum in Puerto Rico next year in which the people will vote for either Independence, Statehood or Commonwealth. If a majority of the people vote for one of the options, it will be up to the Congress to draft the terms of that particular status. Section 5 of