'A watershed moment': House passes bill allowing Puerto Rico to determine its own destiny

'A watershed moment': House passes bill allowing Puerto Rico to determine its own destiny
Image via screengrab.

Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two of the four current Puerto Rican members of the U.S. House, were among those who celebrated the passage of the Puerto Rico Status Act on Thursday as lawmakers made history by approving a binding process for a referendum in the territory regarding potential statehood.

The proposal passed with a vote of 233-191, with 16 Republicans joining the Democratic Party in supporting it.

"We did it!" tweeted Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

The bill was finalized just hours before the vote, with lawmakers coming to a compromise between three different proposals favored by Puerto Rico's three political parties.

"The Puerto Rican Independence Party favors separating from the United States; the New Progressive Party favors statehood, and the Popular Democratic Party favors remaining a U.S. commonwealth," reportedThe New York Times. "Jenniffer González-Colón, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico and its lone representative in Congress, backed a compromise measure among competing plans."

After the bill passes, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "for the first time in our nation's history, the U.S. recognized its role as a colonizing force."

In 2021, Ocasio-Cortez and Velázquez introduced the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, which called for the creation of a status convention for residents to propose to Congress the status they want for the territory.

The White House supports the Puerto Rico Status Act, but with the majority of Republican lawmakers opposed, it is not expected to pass in the U.S. Senate.

Ocasio-Cortez told the Times that the bill's passage represents "a way point and a steppingstone for the future of our island."

"The gains that are made here are a watershed moment," she said.

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