While visiting a D.C. school yesterday, President Barack Obama clearly expressed his preference for statehood for the District of Columbia.
“I’m in D.C., so I’m for it,” Obama explained. “I think I’ve long believed that D.C. pays — folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else. And it’s not as if Washington, D.C. is not big enough compared to other states. There has been a long movement to get D.C. statehood and I’ve been for it for quite some time.”
In response, DC Vote executive director Kimberly Perry stated, ““President Obama’s support for D.C. statehood shows that he understands the injustice we face every day. The President has repeatedly proposed greater [local government] autonomy for D.C., only to see those proposals die because of partisan squabbling in Congress. We hope the administration will now request that its Senate allies hold a hearing on the D.C. statehood bill.”
In 2012, the people of Puerto Rico voted to end Puerto Rico’s status as a territory of the United States. According to the certified results of that vote, 54% of voters rejected Puerto Rico’s territorial status and a majority selected statehood from among the alternatives.
Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla has disputed the vote.
Responding to this dispute, White House Director of Hispanic Media Luis Miranda stated: “To clarify, the results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question. Now it is time for Congress to act and the Administration will work with them on that effort, so that the people of Puerto Rico can determine their own future.”
President Obama subsequently proposed $2.5 million to conduct a federally-sanctioned follow up plebiscite in order to resolve Puerto Rico’s territorial status. The funding would be used for voter education and a public vote on the issue if the attorney general finds the education materials and plebiscite options do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States.
The plebiscite could be on one or more options among statehood, independence, and nationhood in a free (non-binding) association with the U.S., which would resolve the issue of the territory’s ultimate status, as well as, possibly, the current territory status, which could not.
The Justice Department review as to consistency with Constitution and Federal laws and policies is required because Puerto Rico’s “commonwealth” party has proposed governing arrangements that Federal officials have said conflict with the Constitution and Federal laws and policies, and the party continues to do so.
Last week, Governor Garcia Padilla announced plans to hold the status plebiscite before the end of his current political term in 2016.