Senate Remains Divided on Puerto Rico Status Question

May 24, 2022
6:17 PM

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Puerto Rico Status Act faces an uphill battle in the House after being introduced last Thursday by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer flanked by six Hispanic caucus members.

The bill presents three options to the people of Puerto Rico: statehood, free association, and independence. All parties involved have formed a consensus on rejecting the current status quo or any similar territorial status. They all insist that the bill be binding as well, meaning the U.S. government must act on whatever status the people of Puerto Rico choose by plebiscite.

Even if the Puerto Rico Status Act passes the House —which is far from certain— it would still need to pass the Senate, where 60 votes are required to break a filibuster. If it doesn’t pass Congress, then there will be no binding plebiscite, currently scheduled for November 5, 2023.

Latino Rebels asked Senators about the new status bill’s chances in the upper chamber of Congress.

“I’ve been in and out of this discussion for at least 20 years, and I’d have to look at that specifically and think about it,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“This particular issue does not necessarily fit a profile” for Senate Republicans, Blunt added. “Some of our members are for statehood that you wouldn’t think would be, and vice versa.”

“I don’t think the people of Puerto Rico want independence,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). “Their views should command a great weight.”

One Democratic senator disagreed on background with Cruz’s assessment, telling Latino Rebels that independence might be the best thing for Puerto Rico.

“There’s a great report. … It was done by Syracuse University, about how Puerto Rico could be its own country … It was an analysis of how island economies and other places used Israel (and) they used someone in the Southeast” —possibly referring to Singapore— “about just how they could pull it off,” the Senator said. “So this notion of either statehood or (independence), it’s not the craziest thing.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has two policy priorities for Puerto Rico. “One is to make the changes we need to make to strengthen the economy and infrastructure,” she said. “And two, to ask the Puerto Rican people what status they prefer … and if they want statehood, to move quickly in that direction.”

Meanwhile, Republican senators like Roger Wicker (MS) and Roger Marshall (KS) continue to oppose statehood for Puerto Rico.

“I think that 50 states is working pretty good right now, and I’d probably just leave it like it is,” said Sen. Marshall.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports