Puerto Rico Statehood Hits a Snag as Dems Split on the Issue


On the subject of Puerto Rico, sand is flying in the Democratic Party sandbox amid deep divisions over the future of the island.

Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Florida last week proposed a House bill that would make Puerto Rico a state.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in response to support for statehood from New York City officials, said he is not on board.

“I will not favor their pro-statehood bill until they straighten things out,” Schumer said, according to the Puerto Rican daily newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

And to add spice to the soup, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is teaming up with fellow N.Y. Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez to sponsor a bill that would create a convention where the people of Puerto Rico could figure out what it is they would like to become, according to Politico.

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And that is not really clear. A referendum last year showed 52.5 percent of those voting supporting statehood.

Soto is among those who are irked with Schumer, who he says is “trying to appease politics at home.”

“I’m just ready to fight,” Soto said, according to Schumer of saying one thing before last fall’s voting and another thing afterward.

“He had very positive language about it during the election,” Soto said.

“It was right after Joe Biden said his personal opinion was that Puerto Rico should be a state when he was in our district. So it’s a flip-flop,” he said.

Should Puerto Rico become a state?

Ocasio-Cortez supports a convention to “develop a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s status, be that statehood, independence, free association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement.”

“The time to remedy this situation has come, but it must be done correctly. Puerto Rico needs to be afforded the freedom to design its own future,” she and Velazquez wrote in a recent Op-Ed for NBC.

But Soto said only statehood will do, and that he will push his legislation.

“We have 52 co-sponsors so far, more than double what we had last time. I guess we’ll see what happens as we get to the Senate,” he said.

Republicans are sitting back for now. Adding Puerto Rico as a state would alter the delicate dynamics of the balance of power in the Senate, potentially granting Democrats a rock-solid majority.

Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said that his take on the vote last year is that the results “show a notable division among Puerto Ricans on this key issue at this moment.”

The island also needs to achieve some semblance of fiscal order, he said.

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“I also believe that in order to advance statehood, Puerto Rico’s serious debt must be resolved,” he said “I will do everything in my power to help Puerto Rico in that regard.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has urged senators “to keep an open mind and learn more about statehood before taking a firm position in opposition.”

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