Thursday, April 29, 2010

Congress approves referendum on Puerto Rico future


Associated Press
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100430/ap_on_go_co/us_congress_puerto_rico

WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday approved legislation that could set in motion changes in Puerto Rico's 112-year relationship with the United States, including a transition to statehood or independence. The House bill would give the 4 million residents of the island commonwealth a two-step path to expressing how they envision their political future. It passed 223-169 and now must be considered by the Senate.

Initially, eligible voters, including those born in Puerto Rico but residing in the United States, would vote on whether they wish to keep their current political status or opt for a different direction.

If a majority are in favor of changing the current situation, the Puerto Rican government would be authorized to conduct a second vote and people would choose among four options: statehood, independence, the current commonwealth status or sovereignty in association with the United States. Congress would have to vote on whether Puerto Rico becomes a state.

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to the House, said that while the island has had votes on similar issues in the past, Congress has never authorized a process where Puerto Ricans state whether they should remain a U.S. territory or seek a nonterritorial status.

"The American way is to allow people to vote, to express themselves and to tell their elected officials how they feel about their political arrangements," said Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno at a news conference with Pierluisi. "For 112 years, we haven't had the chance ... to fully participate in one way or another in the decisions that affect our daily lives."

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory at the end of the Spanish-American War. Those born on the island were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917 and Puerto Rico gained commonwealth status in 1952.

Today, Puerto Ricans serve in the military but can't vote in presidential elections. They do not pay federal income tax on income earned on the island.

In the last referendum, "none of the above" garnered 50 percent of the vote, topping the other options, including statehood at 46.5 percent and independence at 2.5 percent.

Some of those differences were evident among lawmakers of Puerto Rican background. Puerto Rico-born Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., whose parents were from Puerto Rico, strongly opposed the measure, saying it was designed to push a statehood agenda. "This is the Puerto Rico 51st state bill," said Gutierrez, an independence proponent. "The deck is stacked."

But another Puerto Rico-born lawmaker, Democrat Jose Serrano of New York, backed it. "I support it because for the first time in 112 years the people of Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to express themselves."

Opposition to the House bill included Republican concerns about the consequences of Puerto Rico, where Spanish, as well as English, is the official language, becoming a state. Republicans said Puerto Rico would get some six seats in the House, possibly at the expense of other states, and that statehood would impose further burdens on the federal Treasury.

Republicans, led by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., unsuccessfully tried to attach a provision that ballots favoring statehood make clear that a Puerto Rican state would adopt English as its official language and abide by Second Amendment gun rights. The proposal was defeated 198-194.
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Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.
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The bill is H.R. 2499

On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

Monday, April 26, 2010

Has Chuck Schumer EVER Criticized Israel or its Leadership in the Way He Just Unloaded on Obama?


By, Steve Clemons
Thursday, Apr 22 2010, 10:24PM
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-clemons/has-chuck-schumer-ever-cr_b_548902.html

Senator Chuck Schumer may have just lost any shot at succeeding Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader if the Nevada Senator stumbles in the upcoming tough 2010 challenge he is facing.


Politico's Ben Smith shares word of a very harsh critique that Schumer publicly shared with a conservative Jewish show today of Obama's Middle East policy.

Schumer's screed gets to the edge of sounding as if he is more a Senator working in the Knesset than working in the United States Senate.

This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.

During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.

Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, "A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel."

Senator Christopher Dodd finally challenged Schumer's advocacy for Bolton and this statement in a meeting of the weekly Democratic Senate Caucus at the time -- and put an end to Schumer's campaign.

What Schumer was distorting was that every administration, Republican and Democrat, had in the past been a good friend of Israel. Bolton represented the face of Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious American nationalism largely disdainful of international institutions and engagement, and it was well within the latitude of the United States Senate to reject Bolton, or in this case filibuster him, on numerous grounds without having the Israel card pulled.

Schumer has an Israel blind spot.

From Ben Smith's entry today:

New York Senator Chuck Schumer harshly criticized the Obama Administration's attempts to exert pressure on Israel today, making him the highest-ranking Democrat to object to Obama's policies in such blunt terms.

Schumer, along with a majority of members of the House and Senate, signed on to letters politely suggesting the U.S. keep its disagreements with Israel private, a tacit objection to the administration's very public rebuke of the Jewish State over construction in Jerusalem last month.

But Schumer dramatically sharpened his tone on the politically conservative Jewish Nachum Segal Show today, calling the White House stance to date "counter-productive" and describing his own threat to "blast" the Administration had the State Department not backed down from its "terrible" tough talk toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Schumer, a hawkish ally of Israel since his days as a Brooklyn Congressman, described "a battle going on inside the administration" over Middle East policy.

"This has to stop," he said of the administration's policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.

"I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk," Schumer told Segal. "Palestinians don't really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

Note to Senator Schumer: you have certainly unloaded a lot of blame on the White House today. I have done a quick lexis and Thomas search and have been unable to find a single instance in which you criticized the behavior of the Israeli government at any time on any issue.

If we are wrong, we would very much like to be corrected. Please let us know.


-- Steve Clemons