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WikiLeaks Document Release
February 2, 2009

Congressional Research Service Report RL32933
Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress
Keith Bea and R. Sam Garrett, Government and Finance Division Updated May 29, 2008
Abstract. Developments since 2005 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as Washington, DC, have signaled some renewed congressionalattention to the political status of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States.

Order Code RL32933

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress

Updated May 29, 2008

Keith Bea Specialist in American National Government Government and Finance Division R. Sam Garrett Analyst in American NationalGovernment Government and Finance Division

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Options for Congress
The United States acquired the islands of Puerto Rico in 1898 after the SpanishAmerican War. In 1950, Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 81-600) authorizing Puerto Rico to hold a constitutional convention, and in 1952, the people of Puerto Rico ratified a constitution establishing a republicanform of government for the islands. After being approved by Congress and the President in July 1952 and thus given force under federal law (P.L. 82-447), the new constitution went into effect on July 25, 1952. Puerto Rico is subject to congressional jurisdiction under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Over the past century, Congress passed legislation governing Puerto Rico’srelationship with the United States. For example, residents of Puerto Rico hold U.S. citizenship, serve in the military, are subject to federal laws, and are represented in the House of Representatives by a Resident Commissioner elected to a four-year term. Although residents participate in the presidential nominating process, they do not vote in the general election. Puerto Ricans pay federal tax onincome derived from sources in the United States, but they pay no federal tax on income earned in Puerto Rico. In the 110th Congress, the Resident Commissioner may vote in legislative committees and in the Committee of the Whole. Elements of the U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship have been and continue to be matters of debate. Some contend that the current political status of Puerto Rico, perhaps withenhancements, remains a viable option. Others argue that commonwealth status is or should be only a temporary fix to be resolved in favor of other solutions considered permanent, non-colonial, and non-territorial. Some contend that if independence is achieved, the close relationship with the United States could be continued through compact negotiations with the federal government. One elementapparently shared by all discussants is that the people of Puerto Rico seek to attain full, democratic representation, notably through voting rights on national legislation to which they are subject. Recent reports issued by a presidential task force on the status of Puerto Rico assert that there are only three constitutionally recognized options for the islands: independence, statehood, or continuation asa territory. In response to the 2005 version of the task force report, legislation before the 109th Congress would have addressed the status question through two different mechanisms — plebiscites or a constitutional convention. Congress took no legislative action on those bills. To date in the 110th Congress, three bills regarding Puerto Rico’s political status have been introduced. H.R. 900authorizes a plebiscite in which Puerto Ricans would vote on continuing the status quo or proceeding toward non-territorial status. H.R. 1230 authorizes a constitutional convention and referendum in Puerto Rico to consider status options. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bills in October 2007. At that time, the Committee ordered reported favorably an amended version of...
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