House panel approves funding for Puerto Rico status vote

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Rep. José Serrano (R-N.Y.), who was born in Puerto Rico, said he fought to get the funding in the bill.

 "The inclusion of this funding is historic, and will allow Puerto Rico to conduct the first federally sponsored plebiscite on its status in the 115 years that Puerto Rico has been part of the United States,” Serrano said in a statement. 

“Maybe we can have the possibility of ending this colonial status,” he said during the markup.

In an interview, Serrano that the congressionally funded vote would have more credibility than last year’s local referendum. 

He also said that politicians critical of the last referendum would be empowered to write the language of the new one.

The $47.4 billion bill represents a $2.8 billion cut from the 2013 enacted level, and it is unclear if it will ever become law given that Senate Democrats are proposing to spend $52.2 billion in this area. The difference makes operating under a stopgap continuing resolution likely.

During the subcommittee markup, Democratic ranking member Chaka Fattah (Pa.) said the subcommittee bill “takes the best approach that is possible given the allocation” by the overall House GOP budget plan, which cuts domestic agencies below automatic sequester levels.

Full Committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) opposed the bill saying the low allocation, among other things, hurts law enforcement, coastal weather preparation, minority business development and the ability of workers to adjust to increased trade.

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