Skip to main content

Congressman Sam Graves ignores his responsibility to Puerto Rico; bill moves forward in Senate

SammyhatesPR.JPG

Cartoon by Kyle Wilson

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convened a hearing on various topics including the issue of Puerto Rico’s status.  The territory’s Republican governor, Luis G. Fortuño, was present, and he testified that the Senate needs to approve legislation that will help Puerto Rico clarify its status.

If the Senate approves the measure, it will be following the example of the U.S. House of Representatives, where 128 Republican members recently voted in opposition to the bill, despite strong bipartisan support.

A

mong those in opposition to what’s being called the Puerto Rico Democracy Act was Congressman Sam Graves, a conservative from the Missouri 6th.  In spite of the fact that every Republican president for the last fifty years has claimed to support Puerto Rico’s right to self determination, and the fact that the GOP platform claims to do the same, Congressman Graves broke with his party and voted in favor of the continued second-class treatment of the island’s population.  What’s worse is that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens; they have been since 1917. Congress has a constitutionally mandated responsibility to make rules and regulations for the territories of the United States.  However, Congressman Graves chose to justify his dereliction of duty by hiding behind the “big government” boogeyman. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, if passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, will allow the people of Puerto Rico to vote in a federally sponsored referendum.  Their votes will determine if Puerto Rico should maintain its current status as a territory or if the island should instead pursue a more permanent solution. If Puerto Rico votes to pursue a permanent arrangement, a second federally sponsored vote will take place.  This time, the people of Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to decide if they want their territory to become the fifty first state, if they want independence, or if they want some other type of relationship to the United States. In a recent e-mail to constituents, Congressman Graves implied that he opposed this legislation because Puerto Rico shouldn’t be forced by Washington to become a state.  However, there’s nothing forceful about this legislation.  Puerto Rico is receiving the opportunity to vote on this issue in a federally sponsored democratic referendum. Congressman Graves also suggested that he opposed this legislation simply because Puerto Ricans have opposed statehood in numerous votes throughout the last several decades.  However, Congressman Pedro R. Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources yesterday that the votes that took place in 1967, 1993, and 1998 were misinformed.  Apparently, the island’s minority Popular Democratic Party has been deceiving voters by presenting a completely different, unconstitutional status option.  This has confused a number of voters, making the results of previous elections inconclusive. It’s difficult to understand why the congressman is so scared of Puerto Rican statehood.  After all, statehood is only one of four possible outcomes.  Moreover, any decision reached under the current bill would be non-binding and subject to further congressional debate before implementation. Perhaps Congressman Graves is playing politics; he can’t bring himself to put the good of Puerto Rico before ideology.  Maybe he’s afraid that the largely Hispanic population will alter the landscape of electoral politics by creating another blue state.  At the very least, that’s what conservative think-tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, would lead him to believe. In reality, Puerto Rico would likely become a red state or a new battleground state.  The island’s largely Christian population tends to be more conservative on a number of social issues; Puerto Rico’s current governor is even a member of the GOP. Or, perhaps Congressman Graves is afraid that Puerto Rican statehood will undermine the Republican Party’s support of a national law making English the official language of the United States.  This would also undermine conservative’s ability to use this as a political wedge issue.  After all, continued GOP support for “English-as-the-national-language” will challenge the party’s legitimate support for the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights.  Shouldn’t the “state” of Puerto Rico be more capable of deciding if it wants Spanish and English as its official languages, similar to the way Louisiana should be capable of deciding if it wants French and English as its de facto administrative languages. Of course, Congressman Graves may fear that Puerto Rican statehood will undermine his election-year posturing in the debate over other issues like immigration reform.  He recently decided to co-sponsor H.R. 1868, a piece of “questionable legislation” that would remove a newborn’s citizenship status if it is born to an illegal immigrant.  Not only could this legislation be “unconstitutional if passed,” but at least one of Graves’ constituents now believes the man to be “ignorant of the constitution.” Maybe fears of a Puerto Rican blue state are legitimate after all?  Or, maybe attempts to spin the issues of immigration reform and Puerto Rican self determination into some “grand liberal conspiracy” are just that. Whatever the case, these fears are irrational and none of them justifies Congressman Graves’ dereliction of duty.  A vote in favor for the Puerto Rico Democracy Act would simply have been the right thing to do. Puerto Rico has spent too long in limbo.  The people of Puerto Rico are tired of being treated as second class citizens—and they are U.S. citizens.  They are U.S. citizens who have fought and died for this country.  They are U.S. citizens who have paid federal taxes.  They are U.S. citizens who have pledged allegiance to the flag.  They’re also U.S. citizens who don’t have voting representatives in congress, and they’re not allowed to vote for president in the general election. Puerto Rico has four choices before it.  Maybe they will choose statehood, or maybe the island will choose independence.  Who cares?  It’s time for Congress to empower the people of the island to make this decision for themselves. It’s time for the Senate to take responsibility where others have failed; it’s time to approve the Puerto Rico Democracy Act.

koliver 11.5606

Note:  The above cartoon featuring Congressman Sam Graves being led on a dog leash by a conservative think-tank while urinating on a road sign was designed by Kyle Wilson for this article.  The cartoon may be reused, but Kyle Wilson must be credited or the image must be linked to this article.

Comments

  • Juanito Doe 4 years ago

    I happen to know for a fact that most of Puerto Rico does not pay federal taxes, which invalidates your point of them being tired of being treated like second class citizens. The vast majority of Puerto Ricans, as can be seen by previous referendums are happy with the status quo, a result of being uninformed by their government. If they were to pay federal taxes, the U.s. would be obligated to have them vote in the general Presidential election, as well as the proper representatives.

  • El Pincho 4 years ago

    Statehood for Puerto Rico NOW!!!

  • SanJuanLawyer 4 years ago

    Juanito Doe: As a US citizen, resident of Puerto Rico for 45 years, I can assure you that you are totally wrong! Unfortunately, there is much misinformation on the web.

  • OM 4 years ago

    PUERTO RICO STATEHOOD NOW

  • Pedro Animala 4 years ago

    Obviously, to the interests of the national parties are more important than the well being of 4 million people. Taxes or not, citizenship or not, Puerto Ricans ARE a different people; having more in common with Cubans and Venezuelans than USAmericans.
    For over one hundred years, USAmerica has treated this people differently; has used them for human experiments, forced them into the military, forced upon them an unwanted citizenship (at the time), and has "educated" them to fell inferior, to feel incapable, subjugated them to the white gods of the north.
    Sadly, the people of Puerto Rico have accepted this inferiority status as "the best of two worlds".

    The giant only looks big because you're on your knees.. RISE UP!!

  • Ralph Schiller 4 years ago

    Puerto Rico deserves the right as a U.S. Territory to vote on its future either as a state in the union or an independent nation.

    I hope with all my heart they choose statehood.

  • Robert Rex 4 years ago

    @Juanito. So tell me why I pay federal taxes, but reside in San Juan?

  • Lex Luthor 4 years ago

    The author of this shameful article, Luke Herrington, omitted the truth of this legislation. Congressman Sam Graves is right. The supposed "Democratic Act" bill is nothing but a Pro-Statehood bill that is slanted undemocratically towrds statehood, aomething we Puerto Ricans have rejected on '67, '93 and '98. To say that TODAY pro-statehooders are the majority is a blatant lie, but that's OK. Bring the referendum and let's roll muthafukas .... we'll kick you arses again. Short of an association, we don't want jack froom the US.

  • Lex Luthor 4 years ago

    Robert, you pay federal taxes as a resident of San Juan because you are a federal employee, pendejo. Go insult someone else's intelligence somewwhere else.

  • Jeannie 4 years ago

    Actually, the House approved an amendment to the bill that would allow Puerto Rico to have four options in the second referendum. The bill cannon possibly be "pro-statehood" if Puerto Rico has four options. The only way the bill would be pro-statehood is if the Puerto Rican majority was clearly in favor of this position. The amendment I mentioned above even gives people the right to vote in favor of the status-quo. While PR was going to have that option only in the first vote, they now have it twice. Four options exist: statehood, territorial status (the status quo), independence, and independence with association. With four options, I think the rumor that this bill is part of some secret plot by the Democrats to gain power has not only been put to rest, but it has also been proven completely erroneous. If the Dems really wanted to pull off such a major power grab, they would exercise their constitutional power, and just force PR into the union via appropriate legislation.

  • Mike 4 years ago

    Puerto Rico will never be a state. Everyone knows it. This is a complete waste of time. The people of P.R. don't want it and the people of the USA won't take them as a state.

    Not going to happen.

  • A. J. O'Hara 4 years ago

    You've missed the point entirely. Puerto Rican statehood isn't even being debated here. The point of the article does not have anything to do with Puerto Rico becoming a state, whether or not that is in its future, whether or not America would accept it.

    It's clear that the point of the article is that the people of Puerto Rico deserve the right to determine their future, regardless of what that future is.