Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello attended a working lunch of U.S. governors and had the opportunity to speak with President Trump.
According to a journalist’s tweet reported in The Hill, the president said, “We’ve helped you a lot,” apparently referring to the federal response to Hurricane Maria’s destruction in 2017.
The HIll article also reports that President Trump said he would support statehood for Puerto Rico “if you elect two Republican senators.”
Puerto Rico has sent a Statehood Commission composed of the individuals who would become the first Senators and members of Congress when Puerto Rico achieves statehood. The delegation is balanced, including three Democrats, three Republicans, and one Independent representative.
Gov. Rossello told Trump, “The people of Puerto Rico have chosen twice in the past five years that we don’t want to be a territory anymore,” he said. “We want to be a state. We want… equal treatment.”
It was at this point that Trump joked about the Republican senators. As can be heard in the video above, Trump said it would be “a very quick process” if Rossello could “guarantee” two Republican senators.
Rossello riposted that he could guarantee Puerto Rico would be “a battleground state.” Rossello went on to say that President Trump has an opportunity to make the end of Puerto Rico’s territory status his legacy.
While a territory cannot generally elect senators, since only states have that representation, territories in the past have used “the Tennessee Plan” to achieve statehood. This strategy involves electing legislators before statehood and sending them to Washington, demanding to be seated in Congress.
Puerto Rico did just this in January of this year, requesting statehood with a bipartisan “shadow delegation.”
Trump concluded his exchange with Rossello by complimenting him on his hard work and saying that Puerto Rico is very well represented by their governor.