Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) spoke about statehood for Washington, DC, in yesterday’s debate on the subject in Congress. He also spoke twice about statehood for Puerto Rico.
At 56:59, he said, “And so I say to my [Republican] friends, okay they don’t see the problem of taxation without representation in Washington. They don’t see the problem of governance without representation. They don’t see the irony or the paradox or the contradiction of people putting their lives on the line to defend this Congress, this Union, on January 6, who don’t get to vote for voting representatives in Congress.” These viewpoints could equally be applied to Puerto Rico. However, Raskin accepted for the sake of argument that many of his Republican colleagues did not agree.
“They don’t want to see that, fine. But they can at least see this. It’s been in the Republican Party platform since 1940 that Puerto Rico should be admitted as a state. Every four years, they have said that the millions of American citizens who live in Puerto Rico should be admitted as a state,” he continued. “Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, you name it. In fact, the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico is a Republican who has introduced statehood legislation in this Congress, who’s fighting for statehood.”
Raskin described this as common ground between Republicans and Democrats.
“Let’s get together,” he continued. “The Democrats have been arguing for statehood for Washington, D.C. for a long time. The Republicans have been arguing for statehood for Puerto Rico for a long time. I assume everybody means it. Let’s get together and do it the way this has happened periodically, systematically throughout American history.”
In the past, territories have been admitted in pairs either matching a slave state with one where slavery would be forbidden, or matching an expected Republican state with an expected Democratic state (though states have not maintained those identities).
“That is the national political logic of allowing both of these states to come together. Not everybody gets everything that they want. And I do think that it is antithetical to the Democratic form of government to say you don’t want people to be represented because you don’t like the way they’re going to vote, because they disagree with you on issues. I think that’s fundamentally un-democratic and un-American,” said Raskin. “But in any event, we’ve got the grounds for a compromise and I’m still looking for some colleagues across the aisle to stand up and say they will stand for the position that they have embraced for decades. To say these two states should come in together.”
Raskin’s proposal to bring the two new states in together echoes many such proposals from the 19th century, as well as the more recent example of Hawaii (expected to be a Republican state) and Alaska (expected to be a Democratic state).
Arizona and New Mexico were both admitted in 1912, after decades of working toward statehood separately and together. In 1907, Oklahoma was admitted as a single state after working for admission as two states: Oklahoma and Indian Territory.
There are no border disputes for Puerto Rico and DC, and admitting them as a single state is not a possibility. However, admitting them as the 51st and 52nd states has been proposed repeatedly.
Urging a yes vote
At 1:34:33 in the video, Raskin spoke again about Puerto Rico. “Let’s listen to the people of Washington,” he suggested. “If you can’t quite stomach that, then read the Republican Party platform itself, which calls for Puerto Rican statehood. Let’s see if we can do it together. Let’s bring in millions of disenfranchised people in America… So, with that, Madam Chair, I would urge all of our colleagues to vote yes.”
The House voted in favor of a DC statehood bill in 2020. The bill was not voted upon in the Senate. The DC statehood bill is expected to pass the House again, but the Senate remains uncertain.