Proponents say the measure gives citizens of the island the right to self-determination. Critics say the measure is a device to impose statehood on a population that doesn’t want it. Thursday’s action was nonbinding, and if Puerto Ricans eventually select statehood, Congress would still have to vote to admit the island to the union as the 51st state.
The issue divided Democrats and Republicans alike as liberal Democrats with ties to Puerto Rico teamed with conservative Republicans to oppose the measure.
The divides were particularly stark among members of the House Republican leadership team. House Minority Leader John Boehner,R-Ohio, voted against the legislation. Meantime, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., voted in favor.
The GOP tried to add an amendment making English the official language of a Puerto Rican state but the Dems naturally knocked it down. The full roll isn’t available yet but you should be able to find it here once it is. I’ll update in any case to note major Republican and Democratic defections. Two on the lefty side are Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez, both of whom opposed the measure for one of the same reasons Glenn Beck did — namely, that it supposedly tilts the vote in favor of statehood.
Via Cubachi, here’s Pence’s floor speech in favor of the bill. An unanswered question per yesterday’s post: Why does Congress need to act here at all? The Puerto Rican government is perfectly capable of calling its own referendums (as it’s done three times before) and Congress is perfectly capable of taking the results under advisement. No need to nudge them.
Update: The roll is up. Among the Republicans voting yes: Marsha Blackburn, Cantor, Joe Cao, Mike Castle, Tom Cole, Jeff Flake, Jeb Hensarling, Darrell Issa, Peter King, Mark Kirk, Kevin McCarthy, Pence, and Aaron Schock. Among the Democrats voting no: Jason Altmire, Rosa DeLauro, Barney Frank(!), Gutierrez, Dennis Kucinich(!), Walt Minnick, Tom Perriello, Bobby Rush, Velazquez, and Anthony Weiner.
Update: Reader Jorge B. makes a nice catch. One of the criticisms of the proposed ballot was that it offered no option for Puerto Ricans to retain their current status as a commonwealth on the second part of the vote. Remember? It’s a two-step process: First, they’re asked whether they want to retain their present status or become something different, and if a majority votes for the latter, they proceed to a vote on statehood, independence, or “sovereignty in association with the United States.” Looks like there’s now going to be a fourth option thanks to an amendment offered by Virginia Foxx:
An amendment numbered 1 printed in House Report 111-468 to allow supporters of the commonwealth status quo the option of voting their preference during the second stage of the plebiscite.
The amendment passed, 223-179. Having the commonwealth option on the second half of the ballot will probably split off a bunch of votes that would have otherwise gone for statehood.