About an hour after attending the announcement outside of the Capitol on Tuesday of a bipartisan Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act that has already gained the support of 52 co-sponsors in the House, Puerto Rico governor Pedro Pierluisi said that the road to statehood in the Senate will be “tougher,” but that he is open to “fight the fight.”
These remarks happened at the National Press Club, where Pierluisi was attending a later press conference about the act with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón and other pro-statehood Puerto Rican officials who traveled to the nation’s capital to celebrate the introduction of another statehood bill.
“Based on my experience when I served in office, leaders of Congress are responsive to the will of the members of their delegations,” said Pierluisi, who is also a former Resident Commissioner, Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress. “I have no doubt this bill get a vote on the floor of the House when the time comes. In the case of the Senate, I do admit that the going will be tougher, but we’ll fight, we’ll fight the fight.”
“We’ll convince member by member. We’ve done it in the past and we’ll do it in the future,” Pierluisi added.
Before Pierluisi’s answer, González-Colón was asked about whether support for the new statehood bill has the support of key Congressional leaders. She said it did not.
“I personally don’t expect any of those leaders to support statehood for Puerto Rico,” González-Colón said when asked about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I have not spoken with Speaker Pelosi, but I did speak with other leaders in the House leadership and they do support statehood for Puerto Rico.”
On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) expressed his support for the bill.
Thank you @RepDarrenSoto for championing the rights of Puerto Ricans so that they are treated with the respect they deserve. I applaud the bipartisan introduction of #PRStatehood today and look forward to working with you on this legislation. https://t.co/omlBfWtfM9
— Steny (Wear a Mask) Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) March 3, 2021
The 2021 Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act was formally introduced to the House by Rep. Darren Soto of Florida and González-Colón on a day marked by the 104th anniversary of when Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship. The full House text of the bill was made public on Tuesday afternoon. The overall goal of the act is to have Congress accept the results of a non-binding November 2020 plebiscite, which statehood won, 52%-48%. If passed, it would result in a ratification vote by the people of Puerto Rico to accept admission into the Union.
“Within 30 days of being notified of the Act’s enactment, the bill further requires that the Governor issue a proclamation for the election of Puerto Rico’s Senators and Representatives in Congress,” a release about the act said.
According to Soto’s office, 52 House members have decided to co-sponsor the bill, including Soto and González-Colón. The list provided by Soto’s office contains 14 Republicans and 38 Democrats.
- Darren Soto (D-Florida)
- Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico)
- Don Bacon (R-Nebraska)
- Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida)
- Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida)
- Ritchie Torres (D-New York)
- David Trone (D-Maryland)
- Juan Vargas (D-California)
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida)
- Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania)
- Frederica Wilson (D-Florida)
- Andrew Garbarino (R-New York)
- Carlos Gimenez (R-Florida)
- John Katko (R-New York)
- Bill Posey (R-Florida)
- Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa)
- Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida)
- Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
- Don Young (R-Alaska)
- Ami Bera (D-California)
- Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia)
- Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania)
- Salud Carbajal (D-California)
- André Carson (D-Indiana)
- Kathy Castor (D-Florida)
- Lou Correa (D-California)
- Charlie Crist (D-Florida)
- Val Demings (D-Florida)
- Ted Deutch (D-Florida)
- Dwight Evans (D-Pennsylvania)
- Bill Foster (D-Illinois)
- Lois Frankel (D-Florida)
- Rubén Gallego (D-Arizona)
- Alcee L. Hastings (D-Florida)
- Derek Kilmer (D-Washington)
- Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois)
- Jerry McNerney (D-California)
- Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida)
- Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey)
- Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands)
- Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland)
- Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam)
- Albio Sires (D-New Jersey)
- Eric Swalwell (D-California)
- Elise Stefanik (R-New York)
- Anthony Brown (D-Maryland)
- Hank Johnson (D-Georgia)
- Jimmy Gomez (D-California)
- Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio)
- Don Beyer (D-Virginia)
- Michael Waltz (R-Florida)
- Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-California)
As of Tuesday night, no bill has been formally introduced on the Senate side, but the office of Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexic) said in a statement that “Senator Heinrich is talking to his colleagues in the Senate on both sides of the aisle about the legislation and is optimistic that it will have strong bipartisan support. Senator Heinrich was honored to be part of the press conference [Tuesday] and looks forward to introducing the Senate bill in the coming weeks. It will mirror the House bill.”
Heinrich attended the initial press conference outside the Capitol, joining Reps. Soto, González-Colón, Young, Murphy, Demmings and Salazar. Pierluisi also attended that press conference.
“Last November a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood and for full voting representation in the United States. Congress now has a moral responsibility to respond,” Heinrich said about the act. “That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives González-Colón and Soto to announce bicameral legislation that will create a clear and direct path to formally admit Puerto Rico as a state. My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States. It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve.”
In 2014, Heinrich submitted a statehood bill in the Senate the same time that Pierluisi, who was Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner back then, submitted a similar bill in the House. Those bills also went nowhere legislatively.
There was speculation that Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott —who both advocated for statehood in the past— would join Heinrich in co-sponsoring a Senate bill. In part of a statement about the statehood bill issued on Tuesday afternoon, Rubio instead said the following: “Our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico have democratically expressed their support for becoming a state. I urge my Senate colleagues to keep an open mind and learn more about statehood before taking a firm position in opposition. I will continue to do my part to one day achieve the 60 votes needed in the Senate for admission.” Scott has yet to issue a statement about the statehood bill as of Tuesday night.
In addition, news of the statehood bill comes at a time when Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are expected to present a new version of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act they presented last year.
That act, if passed, would “prompt Puerto Rico’s Legislature to create a Status Convention whose delegates would be elected by Puerto Rican voters. This body would develop a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s status, be that statehood, independence, free association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement,” Ocasio-Cortez and Velázquez wrote last year. A new version of the self-determination bill was expected to be reintroduced by the end of February.
In an interview last month with Axios, Pierluisi, who believes the only option for Puerto Rico is statehood admission, said he “he would love to have [Ocasio-Cortez’s] support. I don’t rule out convincing her to join me in the way that I’m approaching this.”
Latino Rebels did reach out to the White House for comment about the bill’s introduction and to ask if it had a position. The White House has yet to respond to the request.
UPDATE, March 3, 2021: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked a general question about D.C. statehood and Puerto Rico statehood, but was not asked specifically about Tuesday’s statehood bill.
“The President supports a referendum in Puerto Rico for the people of Puerto Rico deciding the path forward,” Psaki said.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) March 3, 2021
The following video is the press event that happened Tuesday morning around 10:30 outside the Capitol:
This video is of the press event held at the National Press Club about an hour after the one held outside the Capitol: