Puerto Rico's Statehood Crusade Hits Congress

Puerto Rico delegate calls for yes-or-no vote in island
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2013 10:16 AM CDT
Puerto Rico's Statehood Crusade Hits Congress
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. (Read more Puerto Rico stories.)

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