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Puerto Rico explores becoming U.S. state

By Alex Jacobi
On December 5, 2012

Amongst all of this year's political excitement, one of the issues that has arisen is the possibility of Puerto Rico statehood.

According to US News, on Nov. 6, by a vote of 54-46 percent, Puerto Ricans said in a non-binding referendum that they would like to change their Commonwealth status. Within this percentage, 61 percent supported complete statehood, 33 percent supported having a new pact with the U.S. and 5 percent said that they would like to become independent.With Puerto Ricans' stance mostly favoring U.S. statehood, the decision rests with the U.S. Congress and president.

"Under the Constitution (Article IV), Congress has the power to define what process is used to admit new states; historically, though, Congress has simply waited for a petition from the states asking for statehood (which has traditionally been accompanied by a referendum of the people in that state in support of statehood), and then Congress can simply approve it with a majority vote of both houses and a signature from the President," said UTM Political Science professor Chris Baxter.

As for the president, according to US News, he is "firmly committed to the principle that the question of political status is a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico."
However, it's not as simple as it sounds once political parties are entered into the equation."Traditionally, Republicans

"Traditionally, Republicans have supported Puerto Rico statehood more than Democrats, based on the assumption that it would be a Red state, but they haven't made an issue of it except when Democrats have tried to generate support for DC statehood. I can personally remember this dialogue going on back in the 80s. The Democrats saw DC as an easy way to gain votes and seats in Congress, but the GOP would counter with the threat to pursue Puerto Rico statehood. With the outcome presumably being a net zero for both sides, they both just let it drop," Baxter said.

According to US News, with this political divide, "there's little chance of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state." However, this doesn't mean the possibility is completely gone. Even though many Democrats don't support Puerto Rico statehood and it seems as if there is not much benefit in it for them, there are some who do, considering the Puerto Ricans currently residing in the U.S.

According to US News, "Puerto Ricans in the United States vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and elected officials in Puerto Rico are nearly always Democrats, so House Republicans have little reason to approve a Puerto Rican statehood bill."

With the multiple perspectives of both political parties and the multi-faceted nature of the issue, the decision for Puerto Rico statehood could be on the table for a while, very likely until 2015, according to US News, when the new Congress is opened.


 


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