Puerto Rico governor: Congress ‘morally obligated’ to act on statehood vote
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in an interview that aired Sunday that Congress is “morally obligated” to act after a slight majority of the U.S. territory voted in favor of statehood.
Pierluisi, who was sworn in last month, told “Axios on HBO” that he expects the House to propose legislation for Puerto Rican statehood by mid-March, after Democrats gained control of the Senate and the White House.
The governor cited discussions with lawmakers, including Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), for his prediction, adding that statehood would provide new access to programs, such as Medicaid and the earned income tax credit.
“What I anticipate is that there will be considerable support for a statehood bill in this Congress,” Pierluisi said in the interview.
“The U.S. could be expanding by admitting Puerto Rico into the union,” he added. “It would be telling the world that it is embracing diversity because this would be a truly, completely Hispanic state.”
Puerto Ricans currently cannot vote for president in the general election and do not have full voting members of Congress. Pierluisi argued that more representation would help the island address its needs.
“Statehood is not a panacea,” Pierluisi said. “Of course we have to do better. But there’s no question that having two senators and four representatives in Congress batting for us when needed would make a difference.”
Puerto Rico voted for statehood in November, with 52 percent backing it and 47 percent against it.
Not all Democrats have openly supported Puerto Rican statehood yet. New York Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nina Velazquez proposed legislation for the island to have independence or self-determination.
D.C. officials are also jumping at the chance to move forward with D.C. statehood, as residents of the city do not have full voting congressional representatives. Both would be expected to become mostly Democratic states if approved for statehood, prompting Republican criticism.
Former President Trump had previously pointed to accusations that Puerto Rico had not properly handled federal aid for natural disasters and bankruptcy, concerns that Pierluisi said were overblown.