Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K) has faced criticism for mentioning Puerto Rico during an interview on Fox News last week.
While coverage of McConnell’s remarks generally implies that McConnell said statehood would be the equivalent of socialism, a close listen shows a different intention on the Senator’s part.
“They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that’d give them two new Democratic senators — Puerto Rico a state, that would give them two more new Democratic senators,” McConnell said, speaking of Democratic legislators. “And as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you’ve surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court. So this is full-bore socialism on the march in the House. And yeah, as long as I’m the majority leader of the Senate, none of that stuff is going anywhere.”
It appears that “this” refers not particularly to statehood, but to efforts to extend the influence of the Democratic party. McConnell has previously claimed that Democrats have a socialist agenda.
Vanity Fair pointed out that statehood for Puerto Rico has plenty of Republican support. It is included in the Republican Party’s official political platform, Republican Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) fully supports it, and a number of past Republican presidents have supported it.
It is not clear that two new senators from Puerto Rico would be Democrats. Puerto Rico sent a delegation to Washington last year, and its members were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The current Governor of Puerto Rico is a Democrat, but the Resident Commissioner is a Republican. Both of these important leadership positions have been filled by members of both the major national political parties over the years.
In the local legislature, Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz affiliates with the Republican Party, as does the Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Johnny Méndez Núñez.
Washington, D.C., however, votes heavily Democratic in Presidential elections and has had a Democratic Delegate in the House of Representatives for many years, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
There have nonetheless been suggestions that adding two “Democratic” states would be a clever way for Democrats to take back the Senate. It appears that McConnell was referencing this idea when he spoke, rather than expressing a belief that statehood is a socialist concept.