Congressional Democrats announced this week they would be introducing a bill to formally make Puerto Rico a state.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., said on Tuesday the bill would set up a process to admit Puerto Rico as the nation’s 51st state if such a plan is approved by the island’s voters. Puerto Rico’s commissioner, Del. Jennifer González–Colón, has already thrown her support behind the plan, according to Axios.
“My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States,” Heinrich said in a statement.
However, many Democrats oppose granting Puerto Rico statehood, arguing independence would be the better option.
“You cannot compare statehood for Washington, DC and statehood for Puerto Rico,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-NY, referencing the Democratic Party’s push to grant the District of Columbia statehood too. “DC is not a colony, Puerto Rico is a colony.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi argued Congress is “morally obligated” to take action on statehood given the island’s November referendum, in which a majority of island citizens voted in favor of statehood.
Even Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged his colleagues to keep an open mind about the process.
“Our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico have democratically expressed their support for becoming a state,” he said in a statement.
“I urge my Senate colleagues to keep an open mind and learn more about statehood before taking a firm position in opposition,” he continued. “I will continue to do my part to one day achieve the 60 votes needed in the Senate for admission.”
Republican critics of the plan have rightly pointed out that granting Puerto Rico statehood would essentially give Democrats another two seats in the Senate. Granting DC statehood wouldn’t be far behind, either.
“After they change the filibuster, they’re going to admit the District as a state,” then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last September. “They’re going to admit Puerto Rico as a state. That’s four new Democratic senators in perpetuity.”