Jenniffer González-Colón is the Resident Commissioner — the non-voting member of the U.S. Congress — for Puerto Rico.
She serves on committees and can introduce bills in Congress. In fact, she recently introduced the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018, requesting statehood for Puerto Rico.
But she has no vote in Congress. She can’t even vote for the bill she introduced.
“I don’t think there is any member of Congress here who would be willing to live under a territorial clause that would give their citizens, their constituents, the discriminatory treatment that mine receive, all 3.3 million,” she told Roll Call. As the only representative for Puerto Rico, she has the largest number of constituents in Congress. Roll Call recently said that she has “Congress’ loneliest job.”
Roll Call pointed out that González-Colón is not the only person from Puerto Rico in Congress, and not all Puerto Rican representatives support her statehood bill. Jose Serrano (D-NY) represents New York. He is also one of the 52 co-sponsors of HR 6246, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.
“It’s easy to be against statehood,” Serrano said at the introduction of the bill, “when you live in a state.”
González-Colón echoed his words when she responded to Roll Call‘s example of Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), saying, “It’s very easy for someone … to talk about how Puerto Rico should become a republic while he continues to be a congressman of the United States and has all the protections that a United States citizen has once he buys a JetBlue ticket.”
The reference to a plane ticket is a reminder that people from Puerto Rico have the same rights and responsibilities as other U.S. citizens when they live in a state. Gutierrez, Serrano, and fellow Puerto Rican congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) all have the chance to vote in presidential elections as well as a vote in Congress.
González-Colón, as Resident Commissioner, can vote in the committees she serves on. Unlike the first Resident Commissioner, she doesn’t have to fight for a seat in Congress. But she still doesn’t have the same kind of voice the congressional representatives of States have.
HR 6246 is in committee — and Jenniffer González-Colón serves on that committee. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the committee, told Roll Call that “We will see” whether hearings on the bill will be held in September. He also described González-Colón as “incredibly creative in trying to find a way to move that situation through the hurdles that have been plaguing statehood.”