Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue In Congress

This is very, very interesting:
Capitol Hill is debating two proposals to determine the status of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island that has been part of the United States since 1898. Although obscure, the issue could certainly affect perceptions among Puerto Rican voters, who represent a significant segment of the Hispanic vote.(...)

Two competing bills in Congress have primed the lobbying efforts on both sides. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007, sponsored by Jose E. Serrano (D.-N.Y.), offers a two-step process on the road to statehood. The Puerto Rico Self Determination Act of 2007, sponsored by Nydia M. Velazquez (D.-N.Y.), calls for Puerto Ricans to have a constitutional convention on the subject and then present the results to Congress, which would make the final decision.(...)

At a packed Subcommittee on Insular Affairs hearing Wednesday afternoon, lobbyists following the issue said a statement from a Justice Department official supporting the Serrano bill marked an important victory for Statehooders.
While Bush maintains a veto threat on the bill that would give the District of Columbia a permanent, voting member in the House of Representatives, it actually appears that many Republicans, including the Bush administration, are in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico. In fact, the statehood movement in Puerto Rico seems to be mainly a Republican effort:
The fiercest point of the debate over what happens to Puerto Rico is the partisan question. Both Republicans and Democrats belong to the Statehood Party; 60 percent are Republicans, and the remaining 40 are Democrats. In the Commonwealth Party, those who affiliate themselves with a national party are only Democrats because they're not allowed in the Republican Party, whose platform calls for statehood.

Black argues that as a state, Puerto Rico's congressional delegation would go Democratic because three times as many people vote in that party's primaries compared with those who vote in the Republican ones. Not so, says Fuentes; of the 38 Statehood mayors, only one is a Democrat and 37 are Republicans.
Now, this is a complicated issue, one on which I do not claim to even have a modicum of useful insight. I don't really know why the left, or at least the center-left, position in the Puerto Rico appears to be in favor of remaining a commonwealth without will voting rights, but I certainly do not feel comfortable with the United States maintaining what is, in essence, a very large colony in the Caribbean. Personally, I favor either statehood or independence for Puerto Rico, simply because I don't like resident of any territory of the United States to not have the same rights as residents of any other territory. In my opinion, either we should grant equally to everyone, or we should split up. However, because independence appears to only have about one-tenth of the support of statehood, it would seem that statehood is the only viable political option that I would support.

Leaving aside the likelihood of such an event, the odds of which I can't even begin to estimate, if Puerto Rico were to become a state, it certainly does appear that it would lean Democratic. Latinos broke 69-30 for Democrats in 2006, those with an income under $15K broke 67-30 for Democrats, Democrats make up 40% of the right-wing party on the island, and Democratic primaries have three times greater voter turnout than Republicans. Whether or not the Puerto Rican congressional delegation would elect Democrats, it would probably exclusively members of parties that would at least caucus with congressional Democrats. And the federal delegation would be quite significant: six new US House seats, two new US Senators, and eight electoral votes. This is the sort of structural shift that could take both the House and the Senate virtually out of play for Republicans until at least until 2012, not to mention provide the Democratic nominee for President with an important, new "base" state in the general election. The importance of this issue goes far beyond partisan politics, but it is hard to not salivate at the potential it holds for Democrats.

Any resources or further information people can provide on this issue in the comments would be greatly appreciated. Articulation of the anti-statehood position would also be very helpful.

Tags: Congress, election reform, puerto rico (all tags)

Comments

86 Comments

Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

Although I'm also excited about the prospect of progressive causes receiving an electoral boost through a Democratic 51st state, I hope the decision is left entirely up to Puerto Rican residents.  I'm really curious to see how this turns out though--great post!

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-25 12:32PM | 0 recs
Cuban Ex-pats in Puerto Rico

There is a large and relatively prosperous Cuban ex-patriate community in Puerto Rico.  Perhaps the Republicans think that they will be able to replicate their success in Miami-Dade.

I would love to see the Republicans try to sell their "English-only" education in Puerto Rico.  

by Ephus 2007-04-25 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Cuban Ex-pats in Puerto Rico

LOL@English-Only.

Their anti-Hispanic rhetoric would have to change before they make this happen.
I just don't see the GOP taking such a huge risk in adding Puerto Rico has a 51st state.

by JaeHood 2007-04-25 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

I would love to see Puerto Rico become a state.  In a way, that would represent to me that we're not done yet--that the United States still has a role in the world.  But if Puerto Ricans want to remain a territory, I'm not going to complain.  After all, they get a lot of benefits without having to suffer some of the consequences.  Yes, they don't have a vote in Congress, but they are all U.S. citizens, protected by our laws and constitution, and they have a strong self-rule regime. It's not a bad gig, really.  

by Reece 2007-04-25 12:46PM | 0 recs
PR and DC

How about admitting two new states: Puerto Rico and the District (State?) of Columbia. DC citizens deserve full fledged rights.

by jedinecny 2007-04-25 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

Amen.  That Bush would veto voting rights for the people who've lived in DC longer, and under less posh circumstances than he has is downright despicable.  These people deserve suffrage.  

Maybe we should start pushing the latter issue as a 2008 campaign issue?

by IrishCatholicDemocrat 2007-04-25 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC
  Not a bad idea.  If the Republicans want Puerto Rico to become a state so badly, then we should put DC statehood in the same bill.  I guess that would add "balance."  Even numbers and all...
   It seems like Puerto Rico is always voting on statehood.  I think the those who want Puerto Rico as a state narrowly lost the referendum last time around.  I wonder if anything has changed.
by cilerder86 2007-04-25 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

does DC statehood mean Senators too or just Representatives?

by corn dog 2007-04-25 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

2 Senators
1 Representative (mininum)

also (I suppose)

1 Governor
1 State Legislature

by jedinecny 2007-04-25 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

the reason that i ask is because my understanding was the DC statehood issue was being considered seriously only because utah would simultaneously get an additional congressional district/congressman.  so it would be a wash politically.

but i hadn't ever thought about senators until now - if the GOP won't consider DC statehood unless they also get a new congressman, wouldn't they be much much much more concerned with two new democratic senators??  they can't give utah two new senate seats as a way to make it a wash.

and presumably PR would have a similar issue.

by corn dog 2007-04-25 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

What is still being considered is NOT full statehood for DC but only to grant full voting rights to DC's Congressional seat. Right now their seat, held by Eleanor Holmes Norton, may participate in proceedings but may not vote.

The long-standing joke likens this arrangement to inviting a eunuch to an orgy.

by the wanderer 2007-04-25 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

What if we offered to let Texas become two states?  I doubt that Texas would go for it, but it is kind of absurd to have states as large as Texas and California.  

by Valatan 2007-04-25 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

No, it seems like a bad idea to mess with Texas.

by afertig 2007-04-25 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

I've always liked the notion of splitting New York City into its own state.

If they did split CA though, how should they do it? North/South, or Coastal/Inland. I can see a good case for either.

by Gpack3 2007-04-25 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

North/South makes more sense to me--the clincher is creating two states of approximately equal population, which would be hard to do with a costal/inland split.

by Valatan 2007-04-25 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

it would be really hard to do any configuration that made any sense that was roughly equal in population.  the reason is because the huge population in the south is allll the way to the south.  the closest you could get would be los angeles and the four counties south of it as one state and everything else as another and even in that case the population would be 20 million and 17 million.  and it would make no sense culturally.

by corn dog 2007-04-25 10:00PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

there have been a million proposals over the years.  here's a good history of the state split movements:

http://www.sacunion.com/pages/weekly/fea ture_b/8969/

I think there've also been more recent movements than he talks about.

the problem with splitting california is that southern california will never never ever go for it.  they don't have a drop of their own water down there and they get it from the north.  if they were a separate state they'd have to pay for it.  or maybe not even get it at all, i'm sure lots of farmers in the northern part of the state would love to get all that water for themselves.

i think some of the more recent ideas have been the three state option.  northern california would be north of sonoma/napa and would pretty much be Oregon II.  central california would be what most people mean when they say "northern california" and would be sonoma/napa to the north, tahoe to the east and monterey to the south.  southern cal would be the rest.

by corn dog 2007-04-25 09:55PM | 0 recs
Re: PR and DC

Whatever Puerto Rican citizens want (independence, statehood, or the current commonwealth status) should be determined by the Puerto Rican populace.

As for DC, if they want suffrage, it should become a part of Virginia.  Virginia would gain at least one, possibly two Democratic congressmen and the state would turn blue in Presidential elections (making it next to impossible for the Repubs to win the White House).

by dpinzow 2007-04-26 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

I'm sure that someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a Puerto-rican nationalist movement? If so then they might not be too interested in statehood. This could also explain the republican tilt in the statehood party since I'd imagine that a nationalist movement would draw from the left more than the right.

by 1arryb 2007-04-25 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

   That's completely absurd.  Congress has the right to award statehood status as it pleases.  That DC is a district is not relevant in its quest to gain statehood.  That passage you quote isn't relevant at all.

by cilerder86 2007-04-25 12:58PM | 0 recs
Art IV, sec 3

"New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress."

by Adam B 2007-04-25 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

Congress can allow new states into the union but they have to be ratified by 2/3 of the other states. It is effectively a constitutional amendment.

Such an amendment passed in the 70's but it was never ratified by 2/3 of the states.

by the wanderer 2007-04-25 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

  I don't know if that's true.  According to this wiki article, it seems that only Congressional approval is needed.  I don't think that permission tantamount to a constitutional amendment is necessary.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._state

by cilerder86 2007-04-25 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

Sam Smith has been an advocate for Urban Statehood for years. Basically, the idea being that we need to create more states in general since our urban areas are severely underrepresented in the Senate.

Anyway, its an interesting thought for a number of reasons, but he addresses the process of creating a new state here:

It is widely believed that admitting new states requires a constitutional amendment and that a state, once created, can't be split. In truth, it is easier to spawn a new state than it was to give women the right to vote or to pass an income tax. A simple majority in Congress and the president's signature - plus approval of an affected state's legislature - and the job is permanently done

by andersej 2007-04-25 03:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

This is ultimately the argument that was had at the outset of the country, no? Its effect would be a move towards eliminating the Senate and having only proportional representation - even if the Senate remained, the power of each pair of Senators would be diluted. I would be all for it, but I don't see it happening.

As for the whole constitutional amendment thing, it appears you are right. What I was referring to was the DC Voting Rights Amendment that passed in 1978 but was not ratified by 2/3 of the states. It would not have granted DC statehood, it seems, but simply granted it full voting rights.

by the wanderer 2007-04-25 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

What about shrinking the District to just the Federal buildings and adding the residential part to Maryland? I don't know if that would be desirable but would it be constitutional?

by arbitropia 2007-04-25 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

If Maryland's legislature consents, I would think that it would be constitutional.  

by Valatan 2007-04-25 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

The District can also be shrunk to just the Federal buildings, and then the rest of the area could become its own state (since Maryland doesn't want retrocesion). I think New Columbia has a nice ring to it :) Remember, DC has a larger population than Wyoming.

by andersej 2007-04-25 02:58PM | 0 recs
Not New Columbia
I don't like the "New Columbia" name:
  1. The "New" makes no sense. What's new about it? New Columbia would be a place settled by people from Columbia.
  2. Christopher Columbus isn't necessarily someone we want to name more things after.
  3. What would the postal abbreviation be? NC is already taken.
by KCinDC 2007-04-25 07:40PM | 0 recs
I am Puerto Rican

I wish I had more time right now to discuss this extremely complex matter -- this is THE issue in Puerto Rican politics. I'll be back later to do so.

In a nutshell: I was staunchly pro-statehood until December 12, 2000. Now I'm much less sure.

by Master Jack 2007-04-25 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

You can seldom go wrong by favoring the right of self-determination.

by Steve M 2007-04-25 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

From Wikipedia -  "Narrow victories by commonwealth supporters over statehood advocates in the first two plebiscites and an unacceptable definition of Commonwealth by the pro statehood leadership on the ballots in the third has allowed the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States government to remain unchanged. In the latest status referendum of 1998, the "none of the above" option won over Statehood, a rejection by Commonwealthers of the definition of their status on the ballots, with 50.2% of the votes. "

I agree with a lot of what Chris said and would  like to see Puerto Rico become a state but it has been rejected in previous plebiscites.  Does anyone with more knowledge on this subject know why Puerto Ricans are not interested in becoming a state?

by John Mills 2007-04-25 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

i believe they get some tax benefits (including tax incentives for companies to invest there and create jobs) that would go away if they became a state.

but i definitely don't fall into the category of "more knowledge."

by corn dog 2007-04-25 02:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Thanks.  This makes some sense.  I know that territories (other than DC) do not pay regular US income taxes.

by John Mills 2007-04-25 02:08PM | 0 recs
They also lose a lot of tax advantages

such as the payment of Medicaid and other low-income supports.

Also, it is a myth that Puerto Ricans don't pay federal taxes.  They don't all pay federal income tax, but they do pay Social Security tax, import/export tax, etc., plus any Puerto Ricans who are employed by the federal government pay income tax as do several other categories of Puerto Ricans.

Commonwealth status is bad for Puerto Rico.  Fuck the partisan aspects of this issue.  It's undemocratic for us to hold a colony this way.

by lorax 2007-04-25 02:34PM | 0 recs
Very briefly

 Part of the anti-statehood argument, from the perspective of islanders, is (a) a fear of erosion of the island's distinctive culture, and (b) a lack of emotional attachment to the United States on the part of many Puerto Ricans. I oversimplify, and I'm not commenting on the arguments' actual merits, but those are two of them.

 It's not all that clearly a left/right issue, either. I was a pro-statehood liberal; I know some pro-independence conservatives.

  Now I really have to get some local-Democratic-Party work done (Central Committee meeting tonight). Damn. I could talk about this all week...

 

by Master Jack 2007-04-25 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Very briefly
thanks!
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-25 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Very briefly

Very interesting.

by John Mills 2007-04-25 01:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

In addition to Puerto Rico I think all all territories should be allowed to go through the process to become states. It has never made sense to me that we have parts of the United States that have no representation in our government. It makes no sense to be subject to U.S. law and die as soldiers for the U.S. but have no representation in Congress.

In addition to Puerto Rico these are other areas of the United States that do not have representation in our government.

   * American Samoa
    *District of Columbia
     *Baker Island
    * Federated States of Micronesia
    * Howland Island
    * Jarvis Island
    * Johnston Atoll
    * Kingman Reef
    * Guam
    * Midway Islands
    * Navassa Island
    * Northern Mariana Islands
    * Palmayra Atoll
    * Puerto Rico
    * U.S. Virgin Islands
    * Wake Island

by robliberal 2007-04-25 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Well most of the territories on that list are very sparsely populated, some are uninhabited.  For most of them, if they wanted representation, they'd need to be merged with another state... the various atolls could be merged with Hawaii, perhaps.

Guam is about 170k people, the Marianas about 80k.  If they merged, they could perhaps be a state. The population would still be well below that of our smallest state (Wyoming with 498k).  

American Samoa has 65k.  It would be a challenge to get statehood but perhaps feasible.

The U.S. Virgin Islands have 112k.  It seems to me like the most sensible way to get them representation would be to merge it with Puerto Rico and admit as one state.

As it stands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico each have elected non-voting representatives to congress, just like  D.C. has.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-25 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Some of those places are so absurdly small that they shouldn't really be states.  American Samoa has a population of 57,000.  Should it really have two senators and a house member and three electoral votes?  

We shouldn't go from underrepresenting some people to wildly overrepresenting them.  Puerto Rico is larger than several states.  DC has a population that is at least comparable to that of Wyoming.

Perhaps we could create a new state out of American holdings in the Pacific, but I don't know enough about how the residents of Guam and the Marinara Islands and whatnot feel about being lumped together to really support or oppose such a notion.  
 

by Valatan 2007-04-25 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Forming one state out of several of them would be a good approach.

by robliberal 2007-04-25 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

This wouldn't necessarily get them more representation. Samoa is a different place with different interests from Guam. And both have different interests from Hawaii. This is especially true of merging the VIs with PR. What difference does it make to be able to elect Senators, if you're always going to outvoted?

I doubt any of these mergers would ever form any coherent identity as a states, especially considering how far apart they all are and how hard it would be to travel between them.

by Gpack3 2007-04-25 05:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue
I envision three states from the list you created:
  1. Colombia(CL) -- from the residential areas of DC
  2. Carribean Islands(CI) -- from PR, the USVI, and Navassa Island
  3. Pacific Islands(PI) -- from all the rest
by Jimdotz 2007-04-26 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

"I don't really know why the left, or at least the center-left, position in the Puerto Rico appears to be in favor of remaining a commonwealth without will voting rights, but I certainly do not feel comfortable with the United States"

Very simple. The left has traditionally supported independence, it would mean giving up that goal to accept statehood. Too bad for them, the majority on the island has never adopted their position here (unlike in Cuba and the Dominican Republic that we stole from Spain.)

by syvanen 2007-04-25 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

As a Puerto Rican very well versed on the matter, I find your analysis very perceptive. It is my belief that Puerto Ricans, being Americans should be for statehood. Alas, the last few plebiscites on the matter have gone 47-47-4 (statehood-commonwealth- independence). Most statehooders agree that the island is a colony, but frankly, the entity name is a semantic shell game. Let me address reality: the island would likely be Democratic leaning state subject to Repuplican pressures due to big Republican personalities in the island establishment and a wink/nod social conservatism. Also, it is not going to happen soon. The South (sans Florida) is so averse to statehood that I don't see 60 Senate votes overcoming a filibuster. If anyone have any questions feel free to ask- I consider myself qualified. An interesting side note; the current commonwealth party governor, Acevedo, is as popular as Bush.      

by RAULC 2007-04-25 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

why does the south oppose statehood?  is it a fear of brown people thing or a fear of more democrats in congress (in which case wouldn't more than just southern republicans oppose it?)

by corn dog 2007-04-25 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

The South is against statehood for cultural reasons: language probably being the main reason.

by RAULC 2007-04-25 03:13PM | 0 recs
income

i see above that per capita income is $19k - how does that compare to cost of living?  in other words, if income is roughly  half the US average, is cost of living higher or lower than half the cost of living in the US?

by corn dog 2007-04-25 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: income

The cost of living is the same in San Juan (where half the population lives) as in any major Eastern seaboard city. There is a lot of indebtness, poverty and drugs in the island. The total number of homicides is hitting an all time high (at the end of the year the number will be between 1,000 and 2,000). There is also a lot of wealth. If the island is compared to rest of Latin America it would be the ranked #1 in per capita income; as it is, it even trails Mississippi in this department.        

by RAULC 2007-04-25 03:20PM | 0 recs
Re: income

Interestingly, the first article Chris links to in the original post says the per capita income is $8k, while Wikipedia says $19k... quite a difference, clearly they use different methods (or perhaps just a mistake).

I don't know what method the Politico's source uses, but Wikipedia uses the IMF index, which is fixed to purchase power parity (PPP).  So if I understand that correctly, that means the $43k vs. $19k is a direct comparison of purchasing power, already taking cost of living into the equation.  

Perhaps the $8k figure is the gross average income.  In which case (since income tax does not take purchasing power into consideration) most Puerto Ricans would pay no income tax at all.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-25 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

It seems like the most compelling reason Puerto Ricans would have to join the union is for economic benefit. Puerto Ricans don't pay the federal income tax, but also don't get many of the benefits that come with it.  The U.S. GDP per capita is $43k, Puerto Rico's is $19k, well below our poorest state.    They would almost certainly be net recipients of federal money if they joined.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-25 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

Master Jack at Very Briefly has got it exactly correct.  Commonwealthers cherish the separate tradition, language and history of Puerto Rico. Statehooders want to make Puerto Rico more like America.  I'm a Commonwealther and a liberal.  I recognize the danger to Puerto Rico's heritage posed by statehood.  The official name of the relationship is not "commonwealth of the U.S." and certainly not "colony."  The current relationship is officially "a free association" between two sovreignties, the U.S. and Puerto Rico.  Under Free Association, the status quo, Puerto Ricans are American citizens, get some but not all the benefits of citizenship, and pay no Federal income taxes (paying taxes to Puerto Rico instead).  One of the many arguments for Commonwealth on the Island is that statehood would put Puerto Ricans in the position of paying U.S. taxes on a Puerto Rican salary.  Puerto Rico's economy is a Caribbean economy--it does not enjoy a fraction of the wealth or income of the poorest state, and statehood would place a crushing burden on individuals on the Island.  One of many arguments for mainlanders to support Commonwealth is that the current statehood party is incredibly corrupt.  The last statehood administration left office in 2000 under a blizzard of FBI investigations, subpoenas, indictments and convictions reaching into the highest levels of government.  The U.S. Attorney at the time said, "The middle name of corruption in the Puerto Rico is [the statehood party]."  The former statehood governor fled the Island--got up in the middle of the swearing in ceremony for his Commonwealther successor and was driven to the airport to go to Boston, and later moved to Virginia.  Now he is back on the Island, a state Senator, a divisive force in the statehood party, threatening to seek the Governorship again, which would surely re-introduce to government his thieving cronies. By contrast, the current Commonwealther Governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila is a smart, public-spirited, admirable leader whose 4-year term (prior to his current term as Governor) in the House as Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner (and non-voting House member) won him many admirers and won many friends for Puerto Rico in Congress. The original article to which you linked refered to the frustration of mainlanders trying to line up the Puerto Rican parties to the Dem-Rep split on the mainland.  It won't work.  The parties in Puerto Rico are defined by their stand on political status--there is a statehood party, a Commonwealth party and an independence party.  Those divisions cut across the kinds of divisions that define mainland parties.  Finally, Puerto Rico represents the World Series of politics--every day in the paper there are 10-15 pages of political and policy news, turnout approaches 100%, campaigns are incredibly hard-fought.  If you love politics, you will love Puerto Rican politics!  Interesting Democratic Party side note, not referenced in the original article.  While Sen. Ted Kennedy is a leading advocate of Commonwealth in the Senate (and he even cut a TV commercial for the election of Governor Acevedo-Vila), Senator Kennedy's nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, was a leading proponent of statehood when he was chairman of the DCCC.

by Thom 2007-04-25 02:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood
thanks very much. I really appreciate the info.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-25 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

"One of the many arguments for Commonwealth on the Island is that statehood would put Puerto Ricans in the position of paying U.S. taxes on a Puerto Rican salary.  Puerto Rico's economy is a Caribbean economy--it does not enjoy a fraction of the wealth or income of the poorest state, and statehood would place a crushing burden on individuals on the Island."

Hold on... that doesn't make sense Thom.  The fact that Puerto Rico is much poorer than the states seems like a reason FOR statehood.  As it is, Puerto Ricans  bear most of the burden for running the local government themselves.  If it were a state, you'd be heavily subsidized by us.  The "crushing burden" would be reduced.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-25 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

And with the median income at $19,000, there is a very large segment of the population that would not be paying any income tax under statehood.  

by Valatan 2007-04-25 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

Thom sold everybody here a bucket of water. I think his bias is apparent. The government of the island has had a certain level of unacceptable corruption, on both sides.  Acevedo is frankly not doing a good job managing the budget crisis. In fact, this past year he introduced a sales tax for the first time which greatly affected the poor, the legislature cut down the amount(like in the continent, the legislature belongs to the other party). The charges of corruption against the former governor have never even come close to been proven- some members of his administration did go to jail. Thom is right that politics is a blood sport in the island. He is tad confused about the title, but as I stated, it is all semantics. The real constitutional name of the island is "an unincorporated territory." Considering culture is a "living" thing, the Puerto Rican culture is already strongly affected by the U.S. It is unlikely that a change of status would much alter the ongoing symbiosis.  The key subtantial difference between statehood and the current status is political: six represenatives, two senators and presidential vote. Their influence would probably have a net positive economic  effect on the island.            

by RAULC 2007-04-25 03:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

RAULC is obviously very well informed and worth listening to, and I stated my bias at the top--I am for the status quo, a supporter of Partido Popular Democratico, the Commonwealth party.  I don't think the PPD comes close to matching the formidable standard for corruption set by the last statehood administration under Governor Pedro Rossello.  Governor Acevedo-Vila was given a very difficult hand to play when voters elected him as Governor but gave the statehooders control of the legislature--an impossible situation in an environment that is so intensely partisan.  Did you know that every elected office in Puerto Rico comes up on the same ballot, once every four years, from Governor down to dogcatcher of Arecibo?  That REALLY enforces party loyalty--all are swept in or all swept out together.  Poor Governor Acevedo-Vila is trying to do something unprecedented in finding a unified approach to the challenges facing the Island with his opponents in control of the legislature, and generally speaking, I think he is not doing too badly.  We'll see if he wins reelection.  Should Rossello be nominated by the statehooders to oppose him, Acevedo-Vila will win.  I agree with RAULC's opposition to the sales tax which is as regressive on the Island as it is on the mainland, and I wish Governor Acevedo-Vila had closed the budget gap with stricter enforcement of tax laws on business and the rich.   Would statehood improve the economic situation of Puerto Ricans?  Statehooders have always promised that it would.  The plurality of Puerto Ricans have always disagreed in plebiscites.  So to get back to the original question, which proposal in Congress deserves the support of MyDD'ers?  That seems easy.  Governor Acevedo-Vila and the PPD support a proposal like that offered by Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D.-N.Y.), which calls for Puerto Ricans to have a constitutional convention on the subject and then present the results to Congress, which would make the final decision.  In other words, the process begins on the Island: self-determination.  The opposing bill, supported by statehooders, lets Congress call the shots in framing how the decision is placed before Puerto Rico's voters.  I am for a process that starts with a determination by Puerto Ricans about how the issue should be framed.  What do you think?  

by Thom 2007-04-25 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

The issue of self-determination is a two-edged sword. Without any proof, it is alleged that some Puerto Rican are unwilling to vote for statehood unless they were to know that their vote would lead to that result (a pride thing)- I am not sure about which mechanism I prefer- whether Congress should extend an invitation; or whether the islanders on their own volition should clamor for statehood (like Hawaii). I do believe that all options should be offrered to the citizenship. I did not support Rosello's approach on the last status vote where the commonwealth party was not given a true alternative (as it was -they prevailed anyway-perhaps because of the rigged vote).  

by RAULC 2007-04-25 06:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

why?  it's got a population greater than some states.  it seems that area should matter less than population.  and certainly whether or not there's any other cities or unincoporated bits associated with DC should matter less than population.

all of which ignores the most fundamental, overriding issue in my book: the foundation of our system of government is representation.  not whether or not a given population exists solely within a city or is spread over a larger area.

by corn dog 2007-04-25 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there is some issue in the structuring of the plebiscites that generally upsets those on the left on the island.  I believe one of the two bills might address this, but Puerto Ricans have never really had a chance to vote a simple, clean slate on independence. That is to say, vote yes or no to remaining part of the US.  If the yes votes were to win, then hold a vote on the specific commonwealth status, statehood, etc.  Of course Congress never agreed (prior to the vote) to recognize the results of past plebiscites, making the vote something less than fair.

Also checkout this article from the Nation on the killing of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, which has implications in this debate: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051024/ji menez

by peaceprogress 2007-04-25 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional
    But Maryland doesn't want DC.  I just want to cut through all this red-tape that prevents US citizens from getting the proper representation.  It's a national embarrassment.  There is no perfect solution.  
    People argue that you can't give DC representation since it is not a state, and they have a better case.  Neither Maryland, nor Virgina, nor DC want to have anything to do with retrocession.  The only option left it statehood.  This isn't about finding the perfect solution, it's about finding a way to give DC voters representation.  It's frustrating to me that people are willing to sell DC citizens down the river because of relatively small problems.
by cilerder86 2007-04-25 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

  Holy Roman Empire?  We call this a Democracy, and yet DC citizens don't have representation.  Why are you so quick to find reasons not to give DC representation?  This is really a moral imperative.

by cilerder86 2007-04-25 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

Geowhiz, forgive me.  I am not a policy wonk, so I don't have a good answer to your question, but people who study this compare the tax burden for the Free Association Commonwealth government's agencies (organized in a way that makes sense in the context of the Puerto Rican economy) to what would be required of Puerto Rico if it were a state and had to meet all the standards of government operations imposed on states in the U.S., and when they add up the numbers, it is a daunting additional burden for Puerto Rico's middle class. Maybe a better-informed visitor can give you a better answer than that.

by Thom 2007-04-25 02:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

The island's government already needs to comply with most federal laws. Like Alaska and Hawaii, a statehood encacment act would take 25 years to implement. Since the state government would lose most income taxes (which are greater than in the states) and important tansitional point would be creating revenues streams for the island. The recent creation of teh sales tax is a move in that direction. The government of the island hires 25% of the working population and serves as part welfare; but they do represent an area where expenditures may be cut.        

by RAULC 2007-04-25 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

That passage says that the District shall not exceed ten miles square.  Therefore, it could be much less--say 50 city blocks or however much the federal government needs to operate.  There is absolutely nothing in there saying that the vast majority of what is now DC can't be a state.  

by conantd 2007-04-25 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

That is what I think. I think everyone should have representation whether they live on the mainland or on some tiny island in the Pacific. It makes something of a mockery of "democracy" to have second and third class territories that do not have equal rights.

by robliberal 2007-04-25 03:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

i assume you mean those...uh, places wouldn't  like being lumped in with each other as if they were the same place or shared some cultural aspects other than being islands.

i think that makes a lot of sense.

but it's still a compelling argument to say, "hey, you can get representation if you agree to share it with a few other territories."  it's a hard argument and would take lots of time to make, i'm sure.  there would just need to be a clear differentiation between the new "state" and it's component parts.  perhaps a "state" with a constitution that gives alllll typically state powers to the "counties" that comprise it with the exception of federal elections.  that way guamians can continue to be guamians and the american samoans can continue to be american samoans.

but i have no idea if this is the kind of thing any of those territories are even interested in.  to be honest, i've always wondered why statehood for DC is so important.  it seems largely psychological since a single representative wouldn't change much.  for instance, i live in pelosi's district but i care a lot less about being represented by the speaker than i do about the size of the democratic caucus.

by corn dog 2007-04-25 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

One interesting thing statehood would give Puerto Ricans is the opportunity to participate in a myriad of contests and programs.  Scholarships, cereal box contests... some give Puerto Ricans the opportunity to play but a lot don't.  The geography bee, for instance--only the 50 states + D.C. are represented.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-25 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

SOLD!!!

by corn dog 2007-04-25 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Actually the nationals for the Geography Bee have 57 finalists...the 50 states, DC, the DOD schools and 5 territories.  I believe Puerto Rico has its own already.  As for the cereal boxes though, good point.

by conantd 2007-04-25 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Sorry I was talking about the AAA Travel Challenge... which is the high school geography bee.  I won it in 2004 (that's where my username comes from).  They only have the fifty states + D.C.

The middle school geography bee, sponsored by National Geographic (the magazine) does indeed let students from the territories participate so I'm guessing that's the one you're talking about.

But there are tons of other scholarship programs they can't participate in.  

by Geowhiz 2007-04-26 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Well, there's your answer for the island's economic issues -- POWERBALL!!

by dwbh 2007-04-26 04:51AM | 0 recs
If I were Puerto Rican I'd rather not be a state.

If Puerto Rico became a state, it would never again be able to become independent. If they became independent, they would lose a lot of support, and more importantly U.S. Citizenship. (which means the ability to travel anywhere in the world, and work in the U.S)

Their current situation is probably pretty ideal.  If the Federal government starts really interfering in their lives, it would probably be wise to take either course, but for now the current situation is probably for the best.

by delmoi 2007-04-25 03:58PM | 0 recs
The Real Problem with Making DC a State

If DC becomes a state, what are we going to do with all those references to things that are the size of Rhode Island?  Making DC the smallest state would completely screw with our sense of scale!  

by Reece 2007-04-25 04:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again

There are several different issues here: The Founding Fathers were opposed to colonialism and set up a rather unique structure allowing new entities to enter on par with the existing order. Territories were to be on the path to statehood and equality. With places that don't fit that, we're a mess. We are pretty lousy colonialists. But the old colonial powers haven't had that problem, nor our sister republics. Greenland is self-governing and has members both in the Danish Parliment as well as in Brussels in the European Parliment. So does Martinique and Guadeloupe in the French National Assembly. The Districto Federal has full voting rights in the Mexican Congress as well as self governing powers (Congress constantly meddles in DC local affairs even telling us how we can spend our local taxes)and Brasilia votes in the Congresso Nacional. So we should be embarrassed to be in this position in the 21st Century.

WE in DC do not identify with Annapolis and do not want to be part of Maryland. Congress can redefine the Federal enclave to the White House/Mall/Capitol and we can enter as the State of Columbia. in regards to the territories, Guam and the V.I. can never achieve the population mass to achieve statehood, but should have voting representation in the People's House, and we should have a Constitutional Amendment to allow that. Samoa is slightly different problem- Samoans are US subjects, not citizens- and we need a new compact to see if the people want to follow the Guam and V.I. model.(BTW- they pay the US Income Tax-it's just sent to Territorial Revenue)

AS for the Associated Free State of Puerto Rico, they do have the possibility of statehood- winning and losing different economic bennies-but I don't think we should support statehood if 49% of the vote is opposed to integration with the nation. There is a strong cultural and historical resistance to us, but for the most part, it's pacific and reflects its history. Puerto Rico was not in revolt against Spain like Cuba- it had representation in Madrid in the Cortes. So while we decided Cuba was too rebellious to administer directly, the Navy ran P.R. for the first 17 years, and Puerto Ricans were only granted additional US citizenship during WW I

I do think commentators are right that the anti-immigration base of the GOP will  probably oppose statehood and try to get the 40 votes in the Senate to oppose it even if the Isla voted strongly in favor.

by Skipster 2007-04-25 06:37PM | 0 recs
OK, a little more detail

 The central issue that undergirds Puerto Rican politics -- and has since 1898 -- is its relationship with the United States. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is associated with That Issue one way or another. If the commonwealthers want to put a toll booth on Exit 6 on the freeway, the statehooders will argue that it should go on Exit 7. It's an emotionally-charged issue, extremely divisive -- but it keeps Puerto Rican politics entertaining. Election turnouts consistently hover over 80%.

 I grew up a statehooder; I believed (and still do) that it would be economically beneficial to the island, and that having seven congressmen and two senators wouldn't be a bad thing. The tax issue is a red herring -- Puerto Rican incomes are  generally low, so the associated INCOME taxes would also be low. And Puerto Ricans already pay high regressive taxes locally -- sales, excise, freight/shipping, automobile. And culture is what you make it -- just like Texas and Massachusetts have their own distinct cultures and identities, so can Puerto Rico as a state. I don't worry too much about losing that, though a lot of thoughtful Puerto Ricans do have concerns there.

 That said, until the neocon Republicans are permanently defanged, I wouldn't recommend PR becoming a state today. It might be better to NOT be part of a right-wing dictatorship, so it might be best to wait and see what happens.

 When I said that the emotional connection to the US wasn't there with many Puerto Ricans, I did not by any means imply that anti-Americanism is rampant there or anything. (Though anti-Bushism is, which simply makes Puerto Ricans sane and rational.) Puerto Ricans love the US and respect America (or what America traditionally stands for), and serve honorably in the US armed forces and elsewhere in American society. But emotionally, most islanders identify themselves as Puerto Ricans first and Americans second. Mainlanders are called "Americans" in Puerto Rico -- it's not meant to be derogatory, it just imparts a certain "outsiderness" to Anglos.

 Corruption in commonwealth government is (a) awful, and (b) looks like Switzerland compared to the rest of Latin America. It really is true that "both parties do it" -- it's a cesspool. And it's a major drag on the island's quality of life -- along with the crime and the visible poverty (though once again, PR is much wealthier than, say, Jamaica or the Dominican). I believe that statehood would improve that situation somewhat, with more oversight and with more federal regulations applying to the island (again, assuming a pre-Bush standard of American government).

 Commonwealth was meant to be a transitory status -- a pathway to either eventual statehood or independence. But it's become a comfort zone for status-quo-oriented politcians and it's taken on its own semi-permanence. Most Puerto Ricans have lived under nothing BUT commonwealth status, and just don't take to change easily.

 As for the political alignment under statehood, yes, it WOULD be overwhelmingly Democratic. There would be pockets of Republicanism in the elite classes, maybe enough to snag a congressman or two, but most Puerto Ricans are suspicious of Republicans, and Bush hasn't exactly made inroads...
 

by Master Jack 2007-04-25 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

I had a discussion about PR statehood with a friend of mine the other day. He lived there until he went to college (about 6-7 years ago) and he is definitely center-left. We generally agreed about statehood (for it) but he said that the non-statehood people argue that if PR became a state, it's native culture would be altered and supplanted by mainland US culture.

Much more than now I mean.

by MNPundit 2007-04-25 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

   We can't have it both ways though.  If this bill giving DC representation is declared unconstitutional, promoting DC to statehood will be our only option.  I don't understand your problem with making DC a state.  Someone had a great idea downthread of drawing the state lines around the federal buildings.  Yeah, yeah, it isn't perfect.  Perfection isn't as important as giving US citizens the right to vote.  It's a travesty.

by cilerder86 2007-04-25 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

Well, it's not the only option.  You can amend the Constitution.  Many DC-representation folks argue we should do precisely that.

by Baldrick 2007-04-25 08:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

   And I can make a billion dollars.  Passing constitutional amendments these days is practically impossible.  We can't even get the ERA through.  Why should DC try for a constitutional amendment when they can get representation from a simple act of Congress?  This is about what's practical for representation.  Statehood, oddly, seems to be the most attainable option.  God forbid we should give black people senators...the horror!

by cilerder86 2007-04-25 08:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood

For what it's worth, here are two opposing, well-reasoned op-eds on the topic:  One from Eduardo Bhatia, the Commonwealther Governor's lobbyist in Washington, in favor of the Velazquez bill and the status quo http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opin ion/orl-le25_407apr25,0,1112894.story?co ll=orl-opinion-headlines ;  One from Luis Fortuno, the statehooder Resident Commissioner (non-voting delegate in the House), in favor of the Serrano bill and opposed to the status quo  http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opin ion/orl-pr0507apr05,0,6154544.story?coll =orl-opinion-headlines .  As a bonus, a well-written op-ed by a young Puerto Rican woman attending school in Massachusetts http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opin ion/orl-newvoices14a07apr14,0,3785209.st ory?coll=orl-opinion-headlines .  All from the irreplaceable Orlando Sentinel, the only good mainland source for Puerto Rican news.  Why Orlando?  Because the hub for Puerto Ricans on the mainland is no longer New York, New Jersey or Chicago--it is Florida's I-4 corridor.  Central Florida's Puerto Rican population could be the swing constituency in the swing state, if only they were better organized, registered and voting.

by Thom 2007-04-25 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

publicly funded elections!!

by corn dog 2007-04-25 10:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue

Where would we find the seven seats to go to Puerto Rico? Which states would be willing to lose representation? Or, would Congress increase the number of Representative in the House?

by domma 2007-04-25 10:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

  Well, that's nice.  Lucas O'Connor thinks that retrocession is on the table.  But Maryland doesn't think that retrocession is on the table.  Which matters more?  I'm opposed to white moderates making up excuses not give black citizens representation.  

by cilerder86 2007-04-26 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional

  It's the easiest solution.   It's not about what Lucas O'Connor is open to.  Retrocession will never happen because Maryland will never want it to.  Constitutional amendments will never happen, because it's impossible to get 37 states to agree on anything.  I just don't understand why you don't support the easiest solution, but you support the quixotically difficult ones.

by cilerder86 2007-04-28 11:42AM | 0 recs

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