A “bipartisan” group of representatives joined with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) Thursday to present a bill that would admit the territory as a state within 90 days of passage.
The bill’s author, Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), said the plan’s simplicity makes it different from all previous attempts at Puerto Rico statehood.
“This bill is different in that it’s just a straight admissions bill. All other bills before it were either calling for an additional plebiscite or had multiple conditions, committees and task forces that the status would have to jump through hoops on,” said Soto, the first Florida representative of Puerto Rican origin.
“So this is the first bill that simply admits Puerto Rico. The first of its kind ever,” added Soto. Puerto Rico’s current claim to statehood is based on two plebiscites, or voter referendums, in 2012 and 2017, where a large majority of active voters chose statehood over independence or remaining as a territory of the United States.
Neither plebiscite was binding, and an opposition boycott diminished the 2017 vote’s credibility. Still, the new bill’s sponsors dismissed the idea of going through the plebiscite process once more, as that argument has been used in the past to stall momentum on statehood.
Joining Rosselló and Soto were Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.); Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.); and Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth, but U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico — whether they were born there or not — cannot vote for president except in local party primaries and receive lesser social security benefits and tax credits compared to state residents. Politically, the rights of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are even more limited than those of U.S. citizens abroad, as expatriate citizens are allowed to vote remotely for federal office candidates.
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