UPDATE – April 28 – The U.S. House of Representatives has passed HR 2499, the bill calling for a vote on Puerto Rico statehood. HR 2499 passed 223-169 and now moves on to be considered by the Senate.
The U.S. Natural Resources Committee has moved to bring HR 2499, a bill regarding Puerto Rico statehood, to the house floor. HR 2499 is not directly a vote for Puerto Rico statehood, but it does require a vote to be taken in Puerto Rico. Statehood is one of the possible outcomes of this vote. So why is Puerto Rico statehood such a contentious issue? It has something to do with tax debt, something to do with autonomy and a lot to do with questions of representation.
The history of Puerto Rico statehood
The history of the question of Puerto Rico statehood goes back many years. While Puerto Rico was first colonized by the Spanish, it became a United States colony in 1898 during the Spanish-American war. In 1900, the Foraker Act created a civilian government, separate judicial system and nonvoting member of the United States congress. In 1917, all Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens. In 1947, Puerto Rico was officially made a commonwealth – not quite Puerto Rico statehood, but not an independent nation. Instead, residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. Citizens without voting representation in Congress or the necessity of giving instant money to the IRS.
HR 2499: A vote on Puerto Rico statehood
HR 2499 is a bill in the House of Representatives that calls for the fourth plebiscite – national vote – regarding potential Puerto Rico statehood. The other three plebiscites held have not come out strongly for or against Puerto Rico statehood. The pro-statehood and pro-commonwealth parties in Puerto Rico have about equal support, and the pro-independence party has about 5 percent support. HR 2499 would create the first congressionally-sanctioned plebiscite about Puerto Rico statehood.
The Puerto Rico statehood vote
There would be two votes if HR 2499, the bill raising the question of Puerto Rico statehood, is passed. First, a vote will be held on the question “Should Puerto Rico maintain its present political status.” If the majority of votes are “no” on that question, a second vote would be held. The second vote on Puerto Rico statehood would actually offer three options:
- Independence – breaking all ties between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, creating a separate nation
- Associated Sovereignty – eliminates the U.S. citizenship and Territorial Clause controls of Puerto Rico, but maintains ties with the United States
- Puerto Rico Statehood – makes Puerto Rico the 51st state of the United States, with six congressmen, two U.S. senators and eight presidential electoral votes
There are many good arguments both for and against Puerto Rico statehood. Some say Puerto Rico statehood would offer equal representation to a group of people who are subject to federal laws. However, others argue that Puerto Rico statehood would break up the unique and balanced system that has developed over the last 50 years. What do you think?