Discussions of statehood efforts for Puerto Rico sometimes suggest that it won’t be possible with Republicans in the majority in Congress. Arguments taking this position sometimes suggest that it would make more sense to wait for the next time Democrats are in power before working toward statehood.
As Matt Flowers @SunshineEmpire put it at Twitter, “If the Democrats had the same killer instinct as Republicans have demonstrated, they would change the rules of the Senate and pass through statehood for DC and Puerto Rico on a simple majority vote as soon as they are back in power.”
The Puerto Rico statehood movement, however, is bipartisan. The Statehood Commission is evenly balanced between Democrats and Republicans, with one independent. Current Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón is a proud Republican and her statehood bill, the Puerto Rico Admission Act (HR 6246), has 23 Republican cosponsors, including the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). Republican Florida Governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott has announced his clear preference for Puerto Rico statehood. Many statehood supporters call statehood the conservative solution. Statehood has advanced in the current Republican Congress.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) is not a supporter of the González Colón statehood proposal, although fellow Puerto Rico native Jose Serrano (D-NY) is as well as several of her Democratic colleagues from Florida are on board including Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Florida Republicans on the bill include Rep. DeSantis (R-FL), Rep. Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (D-FL).
The D.C. statehood movement is largely supported by Democrats. For supporters outside of the district, statehood is sometimes seen as a means to an end. The end in question: increasing Democratic Members of Congress.
Yet D.C.’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, is adamant that it’s wrong to assume that D.C.’s representatives would be Democrats. She has spent millions on a bipartisan campaign for statehood. The campaign is currently working to develop support in 10 states: Washington state, Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, Indiana and Illinois. The states were chosen, according to the Washington Post, specifically because they have bipartisan delegations in Congress.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricky Rosselló has similarly said that Puerto Rico would be a “swing state” if the territory earns statehood.
Nonetheless, there are the naysayers. Political scientist David Faris recently suggested Puerto Rico statehood as an ambition for Democrats willing to “play dirty” if the party gains power after the November elections.
History shows that such predictions aren’t always reliable. Alaska was expected to be a blue state when the territory was admitted. Since Hawaii was expected to vote Republican, bringing the two territories into the Union as states was seen as a fairhanded move that wouldn’t benefit either party.
As it happens, both territories surprised everyone by flipping their party allegiance from the expected. Alaska is now a red state and Hawaii is a blue one.