The House on Thursday passed a bill that would allow Puerto Rico to hold its first-ever binding referendum on whether to become a state or gain independence, The Associated Press reports.
The bill passed 233-191, with several Republicans joining the chamber’s Democrats.
The Republican opposition suggests the bill has little chance of gaining the 60 votes it needs to get through a filibuster in the Senate.
“It is crucial to me that any proposal in Congress to decolonize Puerto Rico be informed and led by Puerto Ricans,” said House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill faced a “long and tortuous path” to get to the House floor.
“For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been excluded from the full promise of American democracy and self-determination that our nation has always championed,” he said.
The bill commits that the government will accept Puerto Rico as the 51st state if voters approve it.
The bill also gives voters on the island the option of backing independence or independence with free association, the terms of which would be negotiated around foreign affairs, U.S. citizenship and the use of the dollar.
Puerto Rico has held numerous nonbinding referendums.
Just about half of the island’s voters participated in the last one in November 2020, with 53% backing statehood and 47% opposing.
Little chance in Senate:
Only 16 Republicans in the House crossed party lines on the bill, suggesting there will not be enough Republican support in the Senate to get the bill through.
Republicans have raised concerns about transferring U.S. military bases off the island and the potential burden to taxpayers to pay back relief funds given to the island during natural disasters.
“The bill fails to talk about and address U.S. sovereignty, U.S. elections, government benefits, taxation, immigration and a myriad of other important issues,” said Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz. “And this is not to suggest that Puerto Rico at some point shouldn’t be a state. The question is how do we go about doing it, because if we’re going to add two more senators and a number of other representatives, if we’re going to upset the structure of our nation with this addition, why aren’t we doing the proper study to get it right?”