President Obama’s budget request this year includes $2.5 million to help move forward the issue of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. This comes on the heels of a 2012 Referendum in Puerto Rico that some see as inconclusive and others see as a clear victory for statehood, depending on who you ask.
It is exciting to see President Obama continue to make these issues a priority. In 2009, Obama pledged Puerto Ricans that he would work to resolve the island’s status. In 2010, a Presidential Task Force issued a report with concrete recommendations on how to move forward.
Through all of this though, the only thing that is clear is that there remain more questions than answers. How will this latest plebiscite avoid some of the pitfalls of past failed attempts? Are Puerto Ricans satisfied with the choices that have been put before them? Will Congress even entertain a federally-funded plebiscite?
There are also other questions. What does this mean for Americans living in other U.S. territories? And what should residents of DC think about all of this?
Perhaps some of these questions will be answered as Congress takes up the President’s budget. But if history is any indicator, one would be wise not to hold one’s breath.
Here’s the full excerpt of President Obama’s request:
$2,500,000 for objective, nonpartisan voter education about, and a plebiscite on, options that would resolve Puerto Rico's future political status, which shall be provided to the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico: Provided, That funds provided for the plebiscite under the previous proviso shall not be obligated until 45 days after the Attorney General notifies the Committees on Appropriations that he approves of an expenditure plan from the Commission for voter education and plebiscite administration, including approval of the plebiscite ballot; Provided further, That the notification shall include a finding that the voter education materials, plebiscite ballot, and related materials are not incompatible with the Constitution and laws and policies of the United States.