The House of Representatives was set to vote Thursday on the Puerto Rico Status Act, which could potentially put the U.S. territory a step closer to a referendum on whether it should become a U.S. state.
The legislation laid out terms of three potential self-governing statuses: independence, full U.S. statehood or sovereignty with free association with the United States.
The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898. Activists have been campaigning for self-determination, including statehood, for decades. There have been six referendums on the topic in roughly the past half-century, but all were non-binding, as only Congress can grant statehood.
Currently, Puerto Rico’s citizens are Americans but do not have voting representation in Congress, cannot vote in Presidential elections, and do not pay federal income tax on income earned on the island. Nor do they have the same eligibility for some federal programs as other U.S. citizens.
The Puerto Rico Status Act was expected to pass the Democratic-majority House along party lines. It would then move to the Senate where it was not expected to pass the 60-vote filibuster, needing at least ten Republican votes in the 50/50 chamber to secure its passage.