Hillary Clinton’s visit to Puerto Rico tomorrow represents a return to one of her strongest bases of support. In 2008, Clinton won a resounding 68% of the vote in the presidential primary, demonstrating popular support and a strong command of Puerto Rico-specific issues. Of the many 2016 presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton’s views on Puerto Rico’s status remain the most explicit.
Her 2008 position paper on Puerto Rico explains: “As First Lady and as Senator from New York – with a million constituents of Puerto Rican origin and people moving back and forth – [Clinton] has worked closely with Puerto Rican leaders, felt the energy and depth of Puerto Rican culture and identity, recognized the great contributions of Puerto Rico to the United States, and honored the sacrifices of Puerto Ricans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”
Notably, Clinton’s agenda from the 2008 is clear that she would like the fundamental question of Puerto Rico’s status to be resolved:
“Since the United States took Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico’s leaders all have wanted a form of government that provides for Puerto Rico’s national laws to be democratically determined and implemented, although they have disagreed on the options. The issue is one of basic democracy and self-determination. All people are entitled to a representative form of government at all levels. Hillary also strongly believes that Puerto Rico should have the status that a majority of its people want from among all of the options. As President, from Day One, she will make it a personal priority to work with all factions — advocates of the present status of the Commonwealth, statehood, independence, and national sovereignty in free association with the United States — and with leaders of Congress — and without any preference among the options — to enable the question of Puerto Rico’s status to finally be resolved. She will emphasize her commitment in addressing Congress — and she will enable the issue to be resolved during her first term.”
The 2008 position paper also includes well thought-out positions on key issues still important to the populous U.S. territory:
- Giving Puerto Ricans the Same Access to Affordable Health Care as in the States – eliminating the cap on Medicaid in Puerto Rico, treating the territory equally in Medicare and private sector reforms;
- Providing Assistance for Economic Activity in Puerto Rico – ensuring that the domestic manufacturing tax deduction continues to apply and extending wage credits, tax benefits for capital investments and other tax incentives to promote private sector growth.
- Treating workers in Puerto Rico the Same as in the States – extending the refundable Child Tax Credit to all workers regardless of how many children they have (expanding the current benefit that only applies on the third child) and extending the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to workers in Puerto Rico without chidren.
- Fighting Crime – Increasing Puerto Rico’s police force.
A more recent statement on Puerto Rico from Clinton, released in 2015, demonstrates consistency in Presidential candidate’s message, this time in the context of the U.S. territory’s fiscal crisis. Clinton’s message is clear that Puerto Rico’s territorial status has played a significant role in its current financial problems:
“We also have to step back and look hard at how Puerto Rico’s economy arrived at this dire situation. The deficit is a consequence of an economy that has lagged that of the States for decades and shrunk for eight of the last nine years. Puerto Rico needs a longer-term plan to address a declining population, eroding employment base, high utility rates and the impact of unequal federal investments. It will take tough decisions and real economic reforms.
But we should also recognize that the inconsistent — and incoherent — treatment of Puerto Rico in federal laws and programs has substantially contributed to the economic decline. One troubling example of this treatment is the lack of equity in federal funding for Puerto Rico under Medicaid and Medicare. This problem has been demonstrated in recent months by a scheduled cut in Medicare Advantage premium reimbursement rates. In 2008, I called for an end to the disparate treatment of Puerto Rico in federal health programs. Today, I renew that call, and commit to helping Puerto Ricans get on a path towards equal treatment under Medicaid and Medicare and other federal programs.
Underlying all of this is the fundamental question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate future. That question needs to be resolved in accordance with the expressed will of our fellow citizens, the people of Puerto Rico.”