According to a major Puerto Rico news source, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) spoke out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico at The Senate Latino Summit last week. El Nuevo Dia reported that the senator said, “It’s time for Puerto Rico to be a state and have representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate,” expressing his belief that Puerto Rico would have been better served after Hurricane Maria if the U.S. territory had greater representation in Washington.
Puerto Rico has one member of the House of Representatives, known as the Resident Commissioner. This individual, currently Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R), can introduce bills and serve on committees. She can also vote under the current rules of the house, but if her vote makes a difference to the outcome, she must abstain while the vote is taken again.
Under some previous administrations, the Resident Commissioner has not been able to vote. Under the current arrangement, she can vote unless her vote would make a difference. Then she can’t.
The Senate Latino Summit
The Senate Latino Summit was organized by the Senate Hispanic Task Force and hosted by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). A variety of Hispanic leaders and celebrities, including actress and activist Eva Longario-Baston, lead parts of the discussion. The focus was on the challenges and issues the U.S. Latino community faces today.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Puerto Rico and elsewhere following Hurricane Maria, also spoke up for Puerto Rico at the Summit, saying, “Puerto Rico is a great opportunity for the United States; it is not a problem.”
Among other political leaders present were Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Hispanic Task Force Co-Chair Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Steering Committee Chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV).