Puerto Rico belongs to the United States, but has no real representation in our government—fundamentally, they are a colony. When Hurricane Maria hit, Donald Trump treated them as a colony, with a halfhearted response that endangered millions and would never have been accepted anywhere in the “real” America. For that reason, and many others, House Democrats are set to introduce legislation that would grant Puerto Rico statehood. From WaPo:
House lawmakers on Thursday will unveil legislation to make Puerto Rico the 51st state in the nation, pushing to give the island equal voting and economic rights in the U.S. government amid an escalating feud between President Trump and Puerto Rico officials over hurricane relief aid.
The legislation, set to be introduced by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) with the support of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, comes as several Democratic presidential candidates have embraced calls to grant statehood to the island, which has been mired in economic stagnation as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Along with being the right thing to do, the addition of Puerto Rico as the 51st state could benefit congressional Democrats by adding two seats to the Senate in a traditionally Dem-friendly territory, as well as additional electoral college votes (currently, Puerto Rico is only allowed to vote in presidential primaries).
Which is, of course, why it’s never going to be signed into law as things currently stand—the Republican Senate and the Republican president will make sure of that. However, there are some Republicans, like Alaskan Rep. Don Young, who will support the measure—Young chairs the House Natural Resources Committee that has direct dealings with the island. Some Senators, like Marco Rubio, have also expressed support in the past, though it’s unclear if that would change should the idea become a reality.
It’s an open question as to whether the majority of Puerto Ricans would support statehood, but as WaPo points out, it would come with numerous benefits:
Proponents of statehood have noted the island receives far less generous federal benefits than U.S. states, including for programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor and disabled. Under a deal reached by Obama and the Republican Congress, Puerto Rico’s budgets must now be approved by a fiscal control board, appointed by Congress and the White House, that has pushed cuts to health care, education and other programs run by the island’s government.
Recently, President Trump complained to Republican senators about how much aid was going to Puerto Rico—a good sign that he’s not going to support any measure to bring them into the statehood fold.