Bipartisan bill calls for statehood for Puerto Rico

A new bill in Congress would make Puerto Rico a U.S. state by 2021, putting its residents on an equal electoral footing with Americans throughout the 50 present-day states for the first time.
By Rick Docksai | Nov 09, 2018
A bill to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state by 2021 debuted in the House on Wednesday with 20 Republicans joining 14 Democrats to co-sponsor it. Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in Congress, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalezalso a Republicancalled for statehood as a way to make sure that Washington takes Puerto Ricans' needs and interests as seriously as those of other Americans.

"This is the first step to open a serious discussion to determine the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico," Gonzlez said. "To sum everything up, this is about equality."

The bill's Republican sponsors include representatives Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee; and Doug Lamalfa of California, chairman of the Indian and Insular Affairs subcommittee.

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello praised the measure in a statement that recalled the continued hardships that Puerto Ricans still suffer from Hurricane Maria. Giving Puerto Ricans statehoodand with it, electoral powerwould make lawmakers more responsive to natural disasters and other troubles on the island, he said, adding, "either here in Congress you are with us or you are against the people of Puerto Rico."

Approximately 5.4 million Puerto Ricans have been living in the continental United States since fleeing the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which wrecked homes across the island and wiped out the electricity grid. More than 2,300 Puerto Ricans on the island are still without electricity, and it may be a month or more before they get it restored, according to CBS News' David Begnaud.

Puerto Rico's residents are U.S. citizens, and many serve in the U.S. military. But they are barred from voting in the presidential elections and have no congressional representation except one representative with limited voting powers.

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