Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee, which covers Puerto Rico issues, as the 113th Congress gets up to speed on Capitol Hill.
Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s lone representative in Congress, was also put on the Judicial Committee and Ethics Committee in the Republican-controlled lower chamber.
Pierluisi will be part of two Natural Resources Committee subcommittees including Fisheries Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. The subcommittee is responsible for all issues pertaining to wildlife resources, fisheries, oceanography, and insular areas. The Insular areas of the U.S. include the territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
He will also serve on the Subcommittee on Public Lands & Environmental Regulation, which is responsible for all matters related to the National Park System, public lands, monuments and objects of interests.
On the Judicial Committee, Pierluisi will be the second ranking Democrat on the Crime, Terrorsim, Investigations & Homeland Security Subcommittee. He will serve with stateside Puerto Rican lawmakers Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) on the Immigration & Border Security Subcommittee.
At the petition of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the resident commissioner is remaining a member of the House Ethics Committee, where he is the second ranking Democrat.
“I’m very happy with these assignments. All of them put me in an ideal position to work on important issues for Puerto Rico and the United States,” Pierluisi said.
It will be his third stint on the House Judicial Committee, one of the most active in Congress with jurisdiction over law and order and civil rights issues.
He said the crime subcommittee represents a platform “to continue working on what has been my chief priority in Congress ― the effort to reduce drug trafficking and violence in Puerto Rico.”
Pierluisi, who coasted to a second four-year term in November, has been pushing hard in Washington for more federal resources to combat the drug trade and related violence in Puerto Rico.
He said his position on this subcommittee was instrumental in getting Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to pay an official visit to Puerto Rico last July.
“During her visit she pledged to develop and implement a federal strategy to address the problems of drug trafficking and violence,” Pierluisi said. “I have continued my efforts on this front and won’t rest until the strategy is in place.”
The other Judicial Committee panel puts him in place to play a real role in immigration reform, an issue of prime importance for the growing Hispanic population and the nation at large.
The House Natural Resources Committee and its Insular Affairs subcommittee have direct jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s political status. As a member of the committee, Pierluisi filed his H.R. 2499 status bill, which was approved by the lower chamber by a margin of 54 votes in 2010, The legislation, which called for a congressionally sanctioned plebiscite in Puerto Rico, hit a wall in the Senate and was never brought to a vote in the upper chamber.
“From this committee I will be working with my allies to ensure that the president and Congress respond appropriately to results of the Nov. 6 referendum in Puerto Rico, during which voters overwhelmingly rejected the current status,” said the resident commissioner, who is president of the island’s statehood New Progressive Party.
The Natural Resources Committee’s scope covers a range of other issues important to Puerto Rico including coastal and reef protection, the Endangered Species Act and the participation of the University of Puerto Rico in scientific research programs.
The Public Lands Subcommittee has oversight over El Yunque, Castillo San Cristóbal, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, El Cañuelo and Old San Juan.