Puerto Rican Statehood Again Becomes An Issue In Congress
by Chris Bowers, Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 12:23:01 PM EDT
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.(...)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:
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.
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.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.
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.
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.