Reforming Government to Serve the People

(Download PDF)

 

We are the party of government reform. At a time when the federal government has become bloated, antiquated and unresponsive to taxpayers, it is our intention not only to improve management and provide better services, but also to rethink and restructure government to bring it into the twenty-first century. Government reform requires constant vigilance and effort because government by its nature tends to expand in both size and scope. Our goal is not just less spending in Washington but something far more important for the future of our nation: protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, sustainable prosperity, and strengthening the American family.

It isn’t enough to merely downsize government, having a smaller version of the same failed systems. We must do things in a dramatically different way by reversing the undermining of federalism and the centralizing of power in Washington. We look to the example set by Republican Governors and legislators all across the nation. Their leadership in reforming and reengineering government closest to the people vindicates the role of the States as the laboratories of democracy.

Our approach, like theirs, is two-fold. We look to government – local, State, and federal – for the things government must do, but we believe those duties can be carried out more efficiently and at less cost. For all other activities, we look to the private sector; for the American people’s resourcefulness, productivity, innovation, fiscal responsibility, and citizen-leadership have always been the true foundation of our national greatness.

For much of the last century, an opposing view has dominated public policy where we have witnessed the expansion, centralization, and bureaucracy in an entitlement society. Government has lumbered on, stifling innovation, with no incentive for fundamental change, through antiquated programs begun generations ago and now ill-suited to present needs and future requirements. As a result, today’s taxpayers – and future generations – face massive indebtedness, while Congressional Democrats and the current Administration block every attempt to turn things around. This man-made log-jam – the so-called stalemate in Washington – particularly affects the government’s three largest programs, which have become central to the lives of untold millions of Americans: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Saving Medicare for Future Generations  (Top)

The Republican Party is committed to saving Medicare and Medicaid. Unless the programs’ fiscal ship is righted, the individuals hurt the first and the worst will be those who depend on them the most. We will save Medicare by modernizing it, by empowering its participants, and by putting it on a secure financial footing. This will be an enormous undertaking, and it should be a non-partisan one. We welcome to the effort all who sincerely want to ensure the future for our seniors and the poor. Republicans are determined to achieve that goal with a candid and honest presentation of the problem and its solutions to the American people.

Despite the enormous differences between Medicare and Medicaid, the two programs share the same fiscal outlook: their current courses cannot be sustained. Medicare has grown from more than 20 million enrolled in 1970 to more than 47 million enrolled today, with a projected total of 80 million in 2030. Medicaid counted almost 30 million enrollees in 1990, has about 54 million now, and under Obamacare would include an additional 11 million. Medicare spent more than $520 billion in 2010 and has close to $37 trillion in unfunded obligations, while total Medicaid spending will more than double by 2019. In many States, Medicaid’s mandates and inflexible bureaucracy have become a budgetary black hole, growing faster than most other budget lines and devouring funding for many other essential governmental functions.

The problem goes beyond finances. Poor quality healthcare is the most expensive type of care because it prolongs affliction and leads to ever more complications. Even expensive prevention is preferable to more costly treatment later on. When approximately 80 percent of healthcare costs are related to lifestyle -smoking, obesity, substance abuse-far greater emphasis has to be put upon personal responsibility for health maintenance. Our goal for both Medicare and Medicaid must be to assure that every participant receives the amount of care they need at the time they need it, whether for an expectant mother and her baby or for someone in the last moments of life. Absent reforms, these two programs are headed for bankruptcy that will endanger care for seniors and the poor.

The first step is to move the two programs away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model. This is the only way to limit costs and restore consumer choice for patients and introduce competition; for in healthcare, as in any other sector of the economy, genuine competition is the best guarantee of better care at lower cost. It is also the best guard against the fraud and abuse that have plagued Medicare in its isolation from free market forces, which in turn costs the taxpayers billions of dollars every year. We can do this without making any changes for those 55 and older. While retaining the option of traditional Medicare in competition with private plans, we call for a transition to a premium-support model for Medicare, with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice. This model will include private health insurance plans that provide catastrophic protection, to ensure the continuation of doctor-patient relationships. Without disadvantaging retirees or those nearing retirement, the age eligibility for Medicare must be made more realistic in terms of today’s longer life span.

Strengthening Medicaid in the States  (Top)

Medicaid, as the dominant payer in the health market in regards to long-term care, births, and individuals with mental illness, is the next frontier of welfare reform. It is simply too big and too flawed to be managed in its current condition from Washington. Republican Governors have taken the lead in proposing a host of regulatory changes that could make the program more flexible, innovative, and accountable. There should be alternatives to hospitalization for chronic health problems. Patients could be rewarded for participating in disease prevention activities. Excessive mandates on coverage should be eliminated. Patients with long-term care needs might fare better in a separately designed program.

As those and other specific proposals show, Republican Governors and State legislatures are ready to do the hard work of modernizing Medicaid for the twenty-first century. We propose to let them do all that and more by block-granting the program to the States, providing the States with the flexibility to design programs that meet the needs of their low income citizens. Such reforms could be achieved through premium supports or a refundable tax credit, allowing non-disabled adults and children to be moved into private health insurance of their choice, where their needs can be met on the same basis as those of more affluent Americans. For the aged and disabled under Medicaid, for whom monthly costs can be extremely high, States would have flexibility to improve the quality of care and to avoid the inappropriate institutional placing of patients who prefer to be cared for at home.

Security For Those Who Need It: Ensuring Retirement Security  (Top)

While no changes should adversely affect any current or near-retiree, comprehensive reform should address our society’s remarkable medical advances in longevity and allow younger workers the option of creating their own personal investment accounts as supplements to the system. Younger Americans have lost all faith in the Social Security system, which is understandable when they read the non- partisan actuary’s reports about its future funding status. Born in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans, it is long overdue for major change, not just another legislative stopgap that postpones a day of reckoning. To restore public trust in the system, Republicans are committed to setting it on a sound fiscal basis that will give workers control over, and a sound return on, their investments. The sooner we act, the sooner those close to retirement can be reassured of their benefits and younger workers can take responsibility for planning their own retirement decades from now.

Unlike Social Security, the problems facing private pension plans are both demographic and ethical. While pension law may be complicated, the current bottom line is that many plans are increasingly underfunded by overestimating their rates of return on investments. This in turn endangers the integrity of the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation, which is itself seriously underfunded. In both cases, the taxpayers will be expected to pay for a bailout. As the first step toward possible corrective action, we call for a presidential panel to review the private pension system in this country of only those private pensions that are backed by the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation and to make public its findings.

The situation of public pension systems demands immediate remedial action. The irresponsible promises of politicians at every level of government have come back to haunt today’s taxpayers with enormous unfunded pension liabilities. Many cities face bankruptcy because of excessive outlays for early retirement, extravagant health plans, and overly generous pension benefits. We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have, in the face of abuse and threats of violence, reformed their State pension systems for the benefit of both taxpayers and retirees alike.

Regulatory Reform: The Key to Economic Growth  (Top)

The proper purpose of regulation is to set forth clear rules of the road for the citizens, so that business owners and workers can understand in advance what they need to do, or not do, to augment the possibilities for success within the confines of the law. Regulations must be drafted and implemented to balance legitimate public safety or consumer protection goals and job creation. Constructive regulation should be a helpful guide, not a punitive threat. Worst of all, over-regulation is a stealth tax on everyone as the costs of compliance with the whims of federal agencies are passed along to the consumers at the cost of $1.75 trillion a year. Many regulations are necessary, like those which ensure the safety of food and medicine, especially from overseas. But no peril justifies the regulatory impact of Obamacare on the practice of medicine, the Dodd-Frank Act on financial services, or the EPA’s and OSHA’s overreaching regulation agenda. A Republican Congress and President will repeal the first and second, and rein in the third. We support a sunset requirement to force reconsideration of out-of-date regulations, and we endorse pending legislation to require congressional approval for all new major and costly regulations.

The bottom line on regulations is jobs. In listening to America, one constant we have heard is the job-crippling effect of even well-intentioned regulation. That makes it all the more important for federal agencies to be judicious about the impositions they create on businesses, especially small businesses. We call for a moratorium on the development of any new major and costly regulations until a Republican Administration reviews existing rules to ensure that they have a sound basis in science and will be cost-effective.

Protecting Internet Freedom  (Top)

The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. Its independence is its power. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention. We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new and disruptive technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem. We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations. We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties; the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector.

A Vision for the Twenty-First Century: Technology, Telecommunications and the Internet  (Top)

The most vibrant sector of the American economy, indeed, one-sixth of it, is regulated by the federal government on precedents from the nineteenth century. Today’s technology and telecommunications industries are overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, established in 1934 and given the jurisdiction over telecommunications formerly assigned to the Interstate Commerce Commission, which had been created in 1887 to regulate the railroads. This is not a good fit. Indeed, the development of telecommunications advances so rapidly that even the Telecom Act of 1996 is woefully out of date. An industry that invested $66 billion in 2011 alone needs, and deserves, a more modern relationship with the federal government for the benefit of consumers here and worldwide.

The current Administration has been frozen in the past. It has conducted no auction of spectrum, has offered no incentives for investment, and, through the FCC’s net neutrality rule, is trying to micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network. It inherited from the previous Republican Administration 95 percent coverage of the nation with broadband. It will leave office with no progress toward the goal of universal coverage – after spending $7.2 billion more. That hurts rural America, where farmers, ranchers, and small business manufacturers need connectivity to expand their customer base and operate in real time with the world’s producers. We encourage public-private partnerships to provide predictable support for connecting rural areas so that every American can fully participate in the global economy.

We call for an inventory of federal agency spectrum to determine the surplus that could be auctioned for the taxpayers’ benefit. With special recognition of the role university technology centers are playing in attracting private investment to the field, we will replace the administration’s Luddite approach to technological progress with a regulatory partnership that will keep this country the world leader in technology and telecommunications.

Protecting the Taxpayers: No More “Too Big to Fail”  (Top)

For more than a century, the U.S. was the world leader in financial services. The visionary management of capital was the lifeblood of the entire economy. By giving responsible access to credit, it helped small businesses grow, created jobs, and made Americans the best-housed people in history. By funding innovation, financial services underwrote our future. Then came the financial collapse of 2008 and a critical reassessment of the role and condition of financial institutions – most of which, it must be said, were responsible and healthy, especially those closest to their investors and borrowers.

In cases of malfeasance or other criminal behavior, the full force of the law should be used. But in all cases, this rule must apply: No financial institution is too big to fail. The taxpayers must never again be on the hook for the losses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The public must never again be left holding the bag for Wall Street giants, which is why we decry the current Administration’s record of over-regulation and selective intervention, which has already frozen investment and job creation and threatens to make financial institutions the coddled wards of government.

A far better approach – protecting consumers and taxpayers alike – is institutional transparency. Banks need to know that they could be at risk, and investors need clear rules that are not subject to political meddling. The same holds true for the equity market regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. We propose reasonable federal oversight of financial institutions, practical safeguards for consumers, and – what is crucial for this country’s economic rebound – sound spending, tax, and regulatory policies that will allow those institutions to once again become the builders of the next American century. We strongly support tax reform; in the event we do not achieve this, we must preserve the mortgage interest deduction.

Judicial Activism: A Threat to the U.S. Constitution  (Top)

Despite improvements as a result of Republican nominations to the judiciary, some judges in the federal courts remain far afield from their constitutional limitations. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law. The sole solution, apart from impeachment, is the appointment of constitutionalist jurists, who will interpret the law as it was originally intended rather than make it. That is both a presidential responsibility, in selecting judicial candidates, and a senatorial responsibility, in confirming them. We urge Republican Senators to do all in their power to prevent the elevation of additional leftist ideologues to the courts, particularly in the waning days of the current Administration. In addition to appointing activist judges, the current Administration has included an activist and highly partisan Department of Justice. With a Republican Administration, the Department will stop suing States for exercising those powers reserved to the States, will stop abusing its preclearance authority to block photo-ID voting laws, and will fulfill its responsibility to defend all federal laws in court, including the Defense of Marriage Act.

Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service for the Twenty-First Century  (Top)

The dire financial circumstances of the Postal Service require dramatic restructuring. In a world of rapidly advancing telecommunications, mail delivery from the era of the Pony Express cannot long survive. We call on Congress to restructure the Service to ensure the continuance of its essential function of delivering mail while preparing for the downsizing made inevitable by the advance of internet communication. In light of the Postal Service’s seriously underfunded pension system, Congress should explore a greater role for private enterprise in appropriate aspects of the mail-processing system.

Protecting Travelers and their Rights: Reforming the TSA for Security and Privacy  (Top)

While the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks brought about a greater need for homeland security, the American people have already delivered their verdict on the Transportation Security Administration: its procedures – and much of its personnel – need to be changed. It is now a massive bureaucracy of 65,000 employees who seem to be accountable to no one for the way they treat travelers. We call for the private sector to take over airport screening wherever feasible and look toward the development of security systems that can replace the personal violation of frisking.

The Rule of Law: Legal Immigration  (Top)

The greatest asset of the American economy is the American worker. Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today’s legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of our national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world. Illegal immigration undermines those benefits and affects U.S. workers. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, the presence of millions of unidentified persons in this country poses grave risks to the safety and the sovereignty of the United States. Our highest priority, therefore, is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry.

We recognize that for most of those seeking entry into this country, the lack of respect for the rule of law in their homelands has meant economic exploitation and political oppression by corrupt elites. In this country, the rule of law guarantees equal treatment to every individual, including more than one million immigrants to whom we grant permanent residence every year. That is why we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking. We support the mandatory use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (S.A.V.E.) program – an internet-based system that verifies the lawful presence of applicants – prior to the granting of any State or federal government entitlements or IRS refunds. We insist upon enforcement at the workplace through verification systems so that jobs can be available to all legal workers. Use of the E-verify program – an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees – must be made mandatory nationwide. State enforcement efforts in the workplace must be welcomed, not attacked. When Americans need jobs, it is absolutely essential that we protect them from illegal labor in the workplace. In addition, it is why we demand tough penalties for those who practice identity theft, deal in fraudulent documents, and traffic in human beings. It is why we support Republican legislation to give the Department of Homeland Security long-term detention authority to keep dangerous but undeportable aliens off our streets, expedite expulsion of criminal aliens, and make gang membership a deportable offense.

The current Administration’s approach to immigration has undermined the rule of law at every turn. It has lessened work-site enforcement – and even allows the illegal aliens it does uncover to walk down the street to the next employer – and challenged legitimate State efforts to keep communities safe, suing them for trying to enforce the law when the federal government refuses to do so. It has created a backdoor amnesty program unrecognized in law, granting worker authorization to illegal aliens, and shown little regard for the life-and-death situations facing the men and women of the border patrol.

Perhaps worst of all, the current Administration has failed to enforce the legal means for workers or employers who want to operate within the law. In contrast, a Republican Administration and Congress will partner with local governments through cooperative enforcement agreements in Section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act to make communities safer for all and will consider, in light of both current needs and historic practice, the utility of a legal and reliable source of foreign labor where needed through a new guest worker program. We will create humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily, while enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas.

State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked. The pending Department of Justice lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah must be dismissed immediately. The double-layered fencing on the border that was enacted by Congress in 2006, but never completed, must finally be built. In order to restore the rule of law, federal funding should be denied to sanctuary cities that violate federal law and endanger their own citizens, and federal funding should be denied to universities that provide in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, in open defiance of federal law.

We are grateful to the thousands of new immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces. Their patriotism should encourage us all to embrace the newcomers legally among us, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid isolation from the mainstream of society. To that end, while we encourage the retention and transmission of heritage tongues, we support English as the nation’s official language, a unifying force essential for the educational and economic advancement of – not only immigrant communities – but also our nation as a whole.

Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians  (Top)

Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments and American Indians and Alaska Natives. These obligations have not been sufficiently honored. The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades; we must reverse that trend. Ineffective federal programs deprive American Indians of the services they need, and long-term failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself.

American Indians have established elected tribal governments to carry out the public policies of the tribe, administer services to its tribal member constituents, and manage relations with federal, State, and local governments. We respect the tribal governments as the voice of their communities and encourage federal, State, and local governments to heed those voices in developing programs and partnerships to improve the quality of life for American Indians and their neighbors in their communities.

Republicans believe that economic self-sufficiency is the ultimate answer to the challenges confronting Indian country. We believe that tribal governments and their communities, not Washington bureaucracies, are best situated to craft solutions that will end systemic problems that create poverty and disenfranchisement. Just as the federal government should not burden States with regulations, it should not stifle the development of resources within the reservations, which need federal assistance to advance their commerce nationally through roads and technology. Federal and State regulations that thwart job creation must be withdrawn or redrawn so that tribal governments acting on behalf of American Indians are not disadvantaged. It is especially egregious that the Democratic Party has persistently undermined tribal sovereignty in order to provide advantage to union bosses in the tribal workplace.

Republicans recognize that each tribe has the right of consultation before any new regulatory policy is implemented on tribal land. To the extent possible, such consultation should take place in Indian country with the tribal government and its members. Before promulgating and imposing any new laws or regulations affecting trust land or members, the federal government should encourage Indian tribes to develop their own policies to achieve program objectives, and should defer to tribes to develop their own standards, or standards in conjunction with State governments.

Republicans reject a one-size-fits-all approach to federal-tribal-State partnerships and will work to expand local autonomy where tribal governments seek it. Better partnerships will help us to expand economic opportunity, deliver top-flight education to future generations, modernize and improve the Indian Health Service to make it more responsive to local needs, and build essential infrastructure in Indian country in cooperation with tribal neighbors. Our approach is to empower American Indians, through tribal self-determination and self-governance policies, to develop their greatest assets, human resources and the rich natural resources on their lands, without undue federal interference.

Like all Americans, American Indians want safe communities for their families; but inadequate resources and neglect have, over time, allowed criminal activities to plague Indian country. To protect everyone – and especially the most vulnerable: children, women, and elders – the legal system in tribal communities must provide stability and protect property rights. Everyone’s due process and civil rights must be safeguarded.

We support efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by American Indians, including Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and to preserve their culture and languages that we consider to be national treasures. Lastly, we recognize that American Indians have responded to the call for military service in percentage numbers far greater than have other groups of Americans. We honor that commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice of all American Indians serving in the military today and in years past and will ensure that all veterans and their families receive the care and respect they have earned through their loyal service to America.

Preserving the District of Columbia  (Top)

The nation’s capital city, a special responsibility of the federal government, belongs both to its residents and to all Americans, millions of whom visit it every year. Congressional Republicans have taken the lead in efforts to foster homeownership and open access to higher education for Washington residents. Against the opposition of the current President and leaders of the Democratic Party, they have fought to establish, and now to expand, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, through which thousands of low-income children have been able to attend a school of their choice and receive a quality education.

D.C.’s Republicans have been in the forefront of exposing and combating the chronic corruption among the city’s top Democratic officials. We join their call for a non-partisan elected Attorney General to clean up the city’s political culture and for congressional action to enforce the spirit of the Home Rule Act assuring minority representation on the City Council. After decades of inept one-party rule, the city’s structural deficit demands congressional attention.

As the center of our government, the District contains many potential targets for terrorist attacks. Federal security agencies should work closely with local officials and regional administrations like the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority. A top priority must be ensuring that all public transportation, especially Metro rails, is functioning in the event of an emergency evacuation. Also, to ensure protection of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms, we call on the governing authority to pass laws consistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions in the District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago cases, which upheld the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.

We oppose statehood for the District of Columbia.

Modernizing the Federal Civil Service  (Top)

The federal workforce bears great responsibilities and sometimes wields tremendous power, especially when Congress delegates to it the execution of complicated and far-reaching legislation. We recognize the dedication of federal workers and the difficulty of their thankless task of implementing poorly drafted or open-ended legislation.

Under the current Administration, the civil service has grown by at least 140,000 workers, while the number making at least $150,000 has doubled. At a time when the national debt has increased to over $15.9 trillion under the current Administration, this is grossly irresponsible. The American people work too hard and too long to support a bloated government. We call for a reduction, through attrition, in the federal payroll of at least 10 percent and the adjustment of pay scales and benefits to reflect those of the private sector. We must bring the 130-year old Civil Service System into the twenty-first century. The federal pay system should be sufficiently flexible to acknowledge and reward those who dare to innovate, reduce overhead, optimize processes, and expedite paperwork.

Delinquency in paying taxes and repaying student loans has been too common in some segments of the civil service. A Republican Administration will make enforcement among its own employees a priority and, unlike the current Administration, will name to public office no one who has failed to meet their financial obligations to the government and fellow taxpayers.

America’s Future in Space: Continuing this Quest  (Top)

The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half-century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.

Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate – and surpass – NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.

Honoring and Supporting Americans in the Territories  (Top)

We honor the extraordinary sacrifices of the men and women of the territories who protect our freedom through their service in the U.S. Armed Forces. We welcome their greater participation in all aspects of the political process and affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution, with all the rights and responsibilities it entails. U.S. territories face serious economic challenges as they struggle to retain existing industries and develop new ones. Development of local energy options is crucial to reduce their dependence on imported fuel and promote economic stability. The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector. A stronger private sector can raise wages, reduce dependence on public sector employment, and lead toward local self-sufficiency. All unreasonable economic impediments must be removed, including unreasonable U.S. customs practices.

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state if they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.