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Competing Bills Could Lead To Puerto Rico's Statehood Or Independence

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For the first time Wednesday, a House committee held hearings on two competing bills which could lead to statehood or independence for Puerto Rico; CBS2's Tony Aiello reports.

Video Transcript

- A big day at the US Capitol for the future of Puerto Rico.

- For the first time a House committee held hearings on two competing bills, which could lead to statehood or independence for the island. "CBS2 News" Tony Aiello reports.

TONY AIELLO: When it comes to cultural pride, Puerto Ricans are strongly United. But much less so when it comes to the future of the island, currently a territory of the US. On Capitol Hill there are two approaches competing for support. The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act authorizes a formal offer of statehood to be settled by Puerto Ricans in a simple yes, no vote. This activist wants Puerto Rico to become the 51st state.

GEORGE LAWS GARCIA: I think that it would be the thing that would empower us the most to reach Puerto Rico's maximum economic potential, so that we can really contribute to the United States and retain our culture and identity.

TONY AIELLO: A competing bill is sponsored by New York Democrat Nydia Velazquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Puerto Rico Self Determination Act. People on the island would elect delegates to a convention with multiple options, including independence from the US.

CARLOS VARGAS-RAMSO: It certainly wants to consider other options to independence, but there's still more self-determination along.

TONY AIELLO: A non-binding referendum last year attracted just 55% of Puerto Rican voters, statehood narrowly won 53% to 47%. Bronx Congressman Richie Torres backs statehood, but says of the two competing bills in Congress.

RICHIE TORRES: The honest answer is that neither has momentum. We're caught in a deadlock. Puerto Ricans within the Democratic Party are divided on the question of status.

AIELLO: Democrats do feel some pressure to act while they still control both houses of Congress. Tony Aiello, "CBS2 News."

- So far, only the Statehood referendum bill is winning Republican support, including from Long Island GOP Congressman Andrew Garbarino.