Lost in the endless news cycle, a significant story is developing. The territory of Puerto Rico is positioning to become America’s 51st state.
In November, Puerto Rico will hold a referendum in which their citizens will vote on the matter of statehood. If they respond affirmatively, American legislators will consider its status.
The issue of statehood is complicated. According to a 2019 Gallup Poll, 66% of Americans favor admitting Puerto Rico into the union. But whereas public opinion is solid, legislative support is mixed. In June, the U.S. House advanced legislation to grant Puerto Rico statehood. Journalist Makini Brice reported that the measure passed “by a vote of 232-180, with no Republicans supporting it.”
Republican opposition to statehood is predictable. If Puerto Rico is admitted, they would be awarded two senators and five representatives in Congress. Because these legislators would likely be Democrats, the GOP has little incentive to welcome them. Currently, there are 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Adding two Democrats would reduce the Republican’s majority and weaken their clout.
Although Democrats generally favor statehood, disagreements abound. In August, New York Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez introduced the “Puerto Self-Determination Act.”
According to a statement issued by the congresswomen, their legislation would “develop a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s status, be that statehood, independence, free association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement.”
The plan was heavily criticized by fellow New York Rep. Jose Serrano who accused Ocasio-Cortez and Velazquez of going rogue. In a tweet, Serrano said his belief is that “all Puerto Ricans should help determine the future of the island — not just a few.”
Serrano, who is a strong proponent of statehood, was irked that he and other House members were not consulted on the proposal.
But regardless of the Democrat’s squabbling, greater obstacles remain. When addressing the subject of statehood at a recent campaign event, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his disapproval.
“I can tell you, if I’m the Majority Leader of the Senate, we’re not gonna be doing Puerto Rican statehood,” McConnell said.
So while Democrats argue and Republicans stall, statehood is unlikely at the present time. But legislators can only fight the future for so long. And Puerto Rico’s admission into the union appears inevitable.