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Puerto Rico Statehood Is Back on the Table

Democratic lawmakers introduce a new proposal
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2021 2:30 AM CST

(Newser) – Two Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday announced they will be introducing legislation to make Puerto Rico a state. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Rep. Darren Soto of Florida say the bill has around 50 co-sponsors, CBS News reports. It would set up a process for the US territory to become the 51st state if the majority of its citizens vote for that outcome in a referendum, the Hill reports. Axios reports the outline it offers is similar to that undertaken by Alaska and Hawaii when they became states. Republicans will likely not be in favor: "After they change the filibuster, they're going to admit the District [of Columbia] as a state," Mitch McConnell said last September. "They're going to admit Puerto Rico as a state. That's four new Democratic senators in perpetuity." Those working for statehood in Puerto Rico push back on that, noting the island often votes for conservative leaders.

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Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi and Jenniffer González-Colón, the island's resident commissioner and nonvoting member in the US House, back the legislation. Supporters of the bill say the federal government treats Puerto Rico, which does not have full voting representation in Congress and whose citizens cannot vote for president, unfairly, and that this inequity was laid bare during Hurricane Maria in 2017, when it became clear Puerto Rico lacked necessary resources and is not provided with adequate funding. Yet 47% of Puerto Rican citizens opposed statehood in a November referendum, with some preferring independence and others worrying Puerto Rico will lose its identity. "You cannot compare statehood for DC and statehood for Puerto Rico," Rep. Nydia Velázquez, who is Puerto Rican, has said. "DC is not a colony, Puerto Rico is a colony." (Read more Puerto Rico stories.)

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