August 01, 2013

Manchin Statement from the Energy and Natural Resources Hearing on the Political Status of Puerto Rico

Thank you Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski for holding this hearing today on the political status of Puerto Rico.

As a former governor, I am uniquely aware of the great responsibility of that office. The voters, through their constitutionally granted right to free and fair elections, choose a governor to carry out the duties of the office and to handle the needs of the state. The governor is accountable and responsible to the people of the state. And if those people, the voters, are not happy with the governor, the election process grants them the ability to change course.

The issue of Puerto Rican political status is undoubtedly important. However, I would bet that most Puerto Ricans would rank job creation, education, and strengthening the economy as the most pressing needs on their mind. I trust the Governor is dedicated to addressing both those needs and the question of political status.

On this issue of status, any referendum effort should adhere strictly to our democratic principles of impartiality and inclusiveness.  It seems to me the most recent referendum does not meet these benchmarks.  I understand Governor Garcia Padilla supports a referendum process that is fair and open, as would I.  If another referendum is called in the Commonwealth, the people of Puerto Rico should be presented with clear and unambiguous options for such a significant decision, so as to match our shared democratic principles.

I hope that all of our witnesses here today will continue to work with this committee so that we can ensure a fair and open discussion on the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status.