Puerto Rico's Statehood Crusade Hits Congress

Puerto Rico delegate calls for yes-or-no vote in island
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 20, 2013 10:16 AM CDT
Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi leaves the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 29, 2010, after speaking in support of the Puerto Rico Democracy Act.   (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

(Newser) – Could the US soon have a 51st state? If all goes to according to Pedro Pierluisi's plan, maybe. Pierluisi, who serves as Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in the House, filed a bill last week calling for a plebiscite on the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports. The federally approved yes-or-no vote would be the first of its kind, the AP notes. If it occurs, and a majority back statehood, the president would have 180 days to send a bill on the matter to Congress. "It's about time this issue be addressed," says Pierluisi, who belongs to the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

But whether Washington would pass the measure remains unclear; it would face likely Republican opposition, since it could create a new blue state, observers tell the Journal. "I see no reason why Congress would even consider it," says a Puerto Rico expert. Still, seven Republicans co-sponsored Pierluisi's proposal, alongside 31 Democrats, and a former top Puerto Rican official says it could be a swing state: It's economically liberal but socially conservative, he says. In November, a referendum saw Puerto Ricans divided on the issue; last month, the White House said it would call for $2.5 million to back a new vote.

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