May 24, 2010 | Commentary on Legal Issues, Rule of Law

Puerto Rican Statehood Bill Picks Up Steam

Rand Paul, Republican nominee for the Kentucky Senate seat Sen. Jim Bunning is vacating, said this last Tuesday after his victory in the primary: “I have a message, a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back.”

And not just in Kentucky. Last week’s primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas also provided strong evidence of an anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-Obama and anti-incumbent feeling on the part of American voters.
 
Sen. Arlen Specter (D.-Pa.) joined Sen. Bob Bennett (R.-Utah) and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D.-W.V.) in the politician unemployment line after losing his primary for the Pennsylvania Democrat nomination. In Arkansas, incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) almost joined the ranks of the unemployed because she did not get 50% of the vote in her primary. Lincoln will have to fight for her political life in a runoff with Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter on June 8.

Paul, though, topped the headlines. He won a stunning upset against the establishment-endorsed candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Clearly, the anger of the Tea Party movement is not unique to conservatives.

Puerto Rican Statehood

Legislation providing Puerto Rico an avenue to statehood picked up steam last week in the U.S. Senate. Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing on H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rican Democracy Act. The House passed this legislation last month 223-169 after adding an amendment to allow the people of Puerto Rico more options on what they want for the future of Puerto Rico—to retain commonwealth status or to opt for statehood, independence or sovereign association with the United States. Senate action on this legislation may come later this year.

One problem with the legislation is that it rigs a vote of the Puerto Rican people in favor of statehood. The House-passed legislation authorizes Puerto Rico to have a vote on whether the people want to retain the present form of political status or a different political status.

Most analysts agree that the people of Puerto Rico have concerns about the current status. If the vote on change passes, then the Puerto Ricans will have another vote and be provided four choices on the future of the Puerto Rican government. Under this complicated scenario, it’s possible that statehood could be ratified in the second vote by a mere plurality.

Another problem with this legislation is that residency requirements are waived to boost participation in these votes. The act allows people born in Puerto Rico who have relocated to the United States to vote in these plebiscites. The final results of these votes may be distorted, and Puerto Ricans who don’t live there given a greater say than they deserve. This legislation eliminates the traditional voting requirement that people vote where they have a residence and where they intend to reside.

When Alaska and Hawaii voted for statehood, the populations voted overwhelmingly in favor of full statehood, yet the people of Puerto Rico have three times rejected the idea of statehood. Conservatives support the idea of statehood for Puerto Rico, but only if the people who actually live there want it, want it with a supermajority, and the American people consent to add a new state.

EPA’s Backdoor Twist

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is plowing ahead with its plan to regulate nearly every aspect of the economy in the name of global warming. However, their initial plans have been significantly altered temporarily by legal and legislative threats.
The primary legislative threat is a resolution of disapproval sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) and 40 of her colleagues. It’s no surprise that the Murkowski resolution, which acts like a congressional veto of job-destroying regulation, has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The real surprise is that some senators are looking for a way to legitimize the EPA’s misguided attempt to regulate greenhouse gases. Rumors are swirling that Sens. Robert Casey (D.-Pa.) and Tom Carper (D.Del.) are drafting legislation that would reaffirm the regulations and the EPA’s legal suspect implementation regime, commonly referred to as the tailoring rule. The practical impact of Casey-Carper would be to subject 6 million stationary sources—think churches, school, hospitals, restaurants and small businesses—to expensive and time-consuming regulations in 2016.

Americans must understand that any proposal that grants the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases will destroy jobs and harm the economy. Only in Washington could such a proposal be spun as helping small business—yet that’s exactly what global-warming alarmists will say. Americans must remain vigilant to any mysterious attempts to implement EPA’s backdoor regulations.
 
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First appeared in Human Events