Former New York City Mayor and Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has come out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico.
“For decades, Puerto Ricans and their interests have been ignored by Washington. And there’s a simple reason why: They don’t have a vote in Congress,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “There’s a clear solution to this challenge that a majority of Puerto Ricans support. Mostl candidates for president have been too afraid to back it. Not me. I’ll state it clearly: I support statehood for Puerto Rico. And as president, I will work to pass a bill making it a reality, subject to approval by the people of Puerto Rico — who will make the ultimate decision.”
By law, Congress must make the ultimate decision about Puerto Rico’s political status. However, Bloomberg is supporting the call for a yes/no vote on statehood, which many leaders have demanded. Such a vote is in fact part of HR4901, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill.
Only two other candidates have made a clear, unambiguous statement supporting statehood for Puerto Rico: entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. The remaining candidates rely on a position of “self-determination,” saying that they will support Puerto Rico once the territory makes a decision, which enables them to avoid taking a principled position on Puerto Rico’s undemocratic status as a U.S. territory and provides no guidance to the people of Puerto Rico after decades of votes with ambiguous options.
In a document called “Mike’s Policy for Puerto Rico Fact Sheet,” Bloomberg stated his support for statehood again:
Supporting Statehood: Mike believes Puerto Rico should have full statehood. He believes that Puerto Ricans residing on the island should no longer be treated as second-class citizens, and should be afforded all the rights and support provided to all other American citizens. It is time we answered the call for equity and provide equal justice to all Americans.
The plan begins with debt management. “Mike’s plan provides for an independent audit, overseen by a representative board, of current debt and recent restructuring proposals, and implements a plan for debt relief based on the results,” the plan states. “In addition, Mike’s plan will provide the same safety net funding to PR as any other US State. That means fair funding for Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit, and full Social Security benefits.
The plan goes on to point out that Puerto Rico has yet to receive most of the allocated disaster funding, and that the disaster response from the federal government has been limited. “Mike will make the reconstruction of Puerto Rico, and the well-being of its 3.2 million citizens , a personal priority as president. He will take steps to empower community leadership and maximize local jobs and business development from reconstruction,” the document says. “Mike will invest in growth by using reconstruction funds to rebuild the island’s infrastructure and economy and increase Puerto Rico’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.”
The document goes into detail on the policies and programs Bloomberg favors for Puerto Rico. Then it returns to the question of statehood.
This section begins with “The Issue”:
For over 120 years, Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States, and for 103 years Puerto Ricans have been American citizens by birth. More than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have honorably served in the U.S. Military.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but they don’t pay federal income taxes if they live on the island. They do pay payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare. The island gets limited funding for Medicaid and food stamps. It doesn’t have representation in the Electoral College, and Puerto Ricans can’t vote in the general election unless they live in the United States.
It continues with an update on the actions which have been taken toward statehood:
The biggest obstacle for Puerto Rico is that there is no official process for a US territory to become a US state. Political leaders on the island have been asking for a clear path to statehood since the 1960s.
- Puerto Rico’s congressional delegates have introduced multiple bills over the years, which granted Puerto Rico statehood based on the outcome of a popular vote on the island.
- The bipartisan Puerto Rican Statehood Admission Act would fund a ballot referendum in Puerto Rico in November 2020, asking voters on the island if they want statehood or not. It’s a slight variation of previous ballot measures that went nowhere. If the bill passes, it would mark the third time Puerto Ricans have voted on the statehood issue since 2012.Two in three Americans (66%) in a June Gallup survey said they favor admitting Puerto Rico, now a U.S. territory, as a U.S. state. This is consistent with the 59% to 65% range of public support Gallup has recorded for Puerto Rico statehood since 1962.
Bloomberg plans on undertaking many of the actions that have been proposed for Puerto Rico’s economic recovery by lawmakers over the years.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) responded on Twitter, “It’s rare and refreshing to hear a presidential candidate support statehood for Puerto Rico in such morally clear terms. These American citizens serve and sacrifice for our country. They deserve the genuine equality and political power that only statehood can provide.”