Puerto Rican born U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), has issued a statement regarding the November 6th plebiscite in Puerto Rico. In comments analyzing the 2012 national election results generally, Rep. Serrano made special mention of the outcome of Puerto Rico’s forth plebiscite since becoming a territory of the United States in 1898:
“I was particularly impressed with the outcome of the ‘status’ referendum in Puerto Rico. A majority of those voting signaled the desire to change the current territorial status. In a second question an even larger majority asked to become a state. This is an earthquake in Puerto Rican politics. It will demand the attention of Congress, and a definitive answer to the Puerto Rican request for change. This is a history-making moment where voters asked to move forward.”
Serrano, who represents a heavily Puerto Rican district in the Bronx, was first elected to Congress in 1990 and is the most senior Member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent. He is the only Member of Congress from New York City on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee and serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Congressman Serrano is also an active member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and served as its Chair from 1993-94.
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico lacks the power to become a State without congressional approval. The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) sets a broad framework for statehood admission, permitting Congress to admit new States and not dictating specific prerequisites that must be met. Legislation must, however, be passed by Congress and signed by the president for a territory to become a State, which means that it is now up to Congress to advance the results from Puerto Rico.
Congressman Serrano emphasized that “in a variety of different races and on a variety of different issues, Americans have signaled their desire to move forward.” He concluded his Election Day remarks by noting:
“Yet again our citizens have shown that they are the true leaders in this nation. They have shown us the direction that they want the country to move. Now those of us who have been honored to hold public office have the responsibility to carry that out. We will continue to move the nation forward. That’s what Americans voted for yesterday.”