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Democrats offer bill on Puerto Rico statehood

Democrats offer bill on Puerto Rico statehood
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Democratic Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Intelligence leaders warn of threats from China, domestic terrorism Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act MORE (N.M.) and Rep. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoDemocrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act Where to, Puerto Rico? MORE (Fla.) announced on Tuesday they would be introducing legislation to set out a plan to make Puerto Rico a state.

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 in a referendum.

Axios first reported on the proposal, which is also backed by the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R).

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Heinrich noted his own state's path to statehood was decades long.

"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.

Support for statehood for Puerto Rico is growing, though it remains a divisive topic.

In a referendum in November, 52 support backed statehood compared to 47 percent who opposed it.

Opponents say statehood would rob Puerto Rico of a national identity, and some prefer other options such as independence.

“You cannot compare statehood for D.C. and statehood for Puerto Rico. D.C. is not a colony, Puerto Rico is a colony,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who last month introduced a bill for Puerto Rico to hold a convention to decide its best status option.

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A statehood plan would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, a tall order given GOP opposition. 

Newly sworn-in Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiDemocrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Where to, Puerto Rico? Puerto Rico debt restructure plan threatens public pensions MORE said last month that Congress was “morally obligated” to take action on statehood given the November referendum.

"The U.S. could be expanding by admitting Puerto Rico into the union,” Pierluisi told Axios. “It would be telling the world that it is embracing diversity because this would be a truly, completely Hispanic state."

The governor said that he has been in contact with Heinrich regarding Puerto Rican statehood.