In May, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) made news when he stated that Puerto Rico “will eventually be a state” of the United States.
Last week, he continued to make news when he commented on the possible timing of statehood and reinforced his belief that Puerto Rico is destined for statehood.
“Right now there is not enough support in Congress for Puerto Rico to become a state. But, I believe that as long as Puerto Rico fixes its fiscal affairs, there will be an opportunity for Puerto Rico to become a state,” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) said in an interview with an Orlando, Florida based radio station.
“Puerto Rico will eventually become a state,” emphasized Scott, according to a report in Puerto Rican press.
While a state can be admitted with a simple majority (Alaska was admitted with 56% of the vote), current procedures mean that in practice, Senate votes usually have to be “filibuster-proof” with 60 votes.
When the interviewer told Senator Scott that Puerto Ricans in Florida still ask why he has not co-sponsored S 780, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act, Scott said that there weren’t enough votes, meaning that he believes fewer than 60 senators will vote yes on statehood for Puerto Rico if a vote were to be held today. Tomorrow, he implies, is another story.
Statehood for a territory has never been contingent on the territory’s economic wellbeing. Most territories have been less than prosperous, and all have become financially stronger once they became States.
However, Scott is not alone in claiming that Puerto Rico’s economic development should precede statehood. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) release the following statement when S 780 was introduced in the Senate last year:
“Our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico have democratically expressed their support for becoming a state,” Rubio said. “I urge my Senate colleagues to keep an open mind and learn more about statehood before taking a firm position in opposition. I will continue to do my part to one day achieve the 60 votes needed in the Senate for admission. As part of that effort, we should help Puerto Rico recapture its former economic prosperity by passing my bipartisan MMEDS Act to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry and make America less reliant on foreign nations for critical medicines.”
Speaking overtly about the need for 60 votes, he also said that Puerto Rico needs to strengthen its economic position in order to get those votes.
In fact, Puerto Rico is showing signs of economic improvement. The territory has settled on a restructuring plan for its debt, unemployment is at a record low, and the economy has been showing growth in the past year after a decade of recession.
In addition, the upcoming tax filing season represents the first time that all families in Puerto Rico can claim the federal Child Tax Credit for each of their children. CTC, a proven federal policy that reduces child poverty, was previously available to Puerto Ricans on a limited basis.
The PROMESA Fiscal Oversight and Management Board may also be winding down. There are many signs of fiscal improvement for the territory. If stabilizing the economy is a requirement for Puerto Rico’s admission as a State, Congress should decide on the metrics it will require and let Puerto Rico know what level of growth is needed.
There are two bipartisan bills pending before Congress to advance status resolution for Puerto Rico.
HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill, calls for Congress to offer statehood to Puerto Rico after holding another plebiscite to confirm previous results for statehood. If the voters ratify that offer with another “Yes” vote on statehood, Puerto Rico would be admitted. This bill recognizes the November 2020 plebiscite, which gained a majority for statehood and mirrors the admission processes for Alaska and Hawaii.
HR 2070, the alternative bill, calls for a convention in Puerto Rico to come up with a new slate of nonterritorial status options for Puerto Rico. It does not recognize the history of plebiscites already held in Puerto Rico. The proposal has also come under fire from the nation’s leading Constitutional scholars for its failure to clearly define the legal parameters of real, viable options that could be credibly offered to the people of Puerto Rico.
There are currently efforts underway to develop a compromise bill based on the two legislative proposals, both of which recognize Puerto Rico”s current undemocratic status. HR 2070 mentions that Puerto Rico was “acquired by conquest” after the Spanish American War and refers to the current “colonial relationship.” HR 1522 similarly notes its territorial status under the Constitution, in which Congress has the last word on Puerto Rico.
Scott and Rubio support statehood
Scott is not saying “if” – he is just saying “when.” Scott has been a supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico for many years.
Rubio explained in a similar situation that he didn’t want to advance the vote on statehood at a time when a statehood bill might not pass. He feared that once such a vote took place, it would be more difficult to get a favorable vote in the future.