Puerto Rico’s Dueling Territorial Status Bills to Get Hearing

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Two rival bills seeking to resolve Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory will get full hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee on April 14.

In a statement Monday, Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, said that both bills would get a “fair hearing” and that he wouldn’t put his “thumb on the scale.”

The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act seeks to turn Puerto Rico into the 51st U.S. state by holding a binding “yes” or “no” vote on the island. The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act would convene a delegation to study all territorial options including independence, statehood and free association.

Backers of the bills see them as mutually exclusive. Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat who made statehood central to his campaign, has suggested the Self-Determination Act is a ploy to undermine Puerto Rico’s admission to the union.

The Caribbean island of 3.2 million has been a U.S. possession since 1898. It’s currently crawling out of a historic bankruptcy aimed at reducing nearly $18 billion of debt.

“I look forward to hearing about both bills to come to an equitable, and hopefully final, federal agreement on a process to resolve the island’s ultimate political status,” Grijalva said.

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