Washington D.C. Admission Act To Get House Vote; Rep. Grijalva Should Mark Up The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (Updated)

The White House on Tuesday formally offered its endorsement of legislation that would establish statehood for Washington, D.C. as the 51st state, giving full representation to the district’s 700,000 full-time residents.

Julia Conley writes at Common Dreams, To Make Nation ‘Stronger and More Just,’ White House Offers Support for DC Statehood:

The House is scheduled to vote this week on the Washington D.C. Admission Act, or H.R. 51, following its passage in the House Oversight and Reform Committee last week.  In its official statement on administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wrote that statehood for the district “will make our Union stronger and more just.”

“Washington, D.C. has a robust economy, a rich culture, and a diverse population of Americans from all walks of life who are entitled to full and equal participation in our democracy,” the office added.

President Joe Biden has previously stated his personal support for Washington, D.C. statehood; according to Forbes, the OMB’s statement is the first instance in which the executive branch has officially backed the effort.

H.R. 51 was passed by the Oversight and Reform Committee in a party line vote of 25-19. Republicans argued on Tuesday that the district should not be established as a state because it “wouldn’t even qualify as a singular congressional district”—even though both Vermont and Wyoming have smaller populations than Washington, D.C.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who represents Washington, D.C. in the House but cannot vote on final legislation, thanked the White House for its support of H.R. 51, which she introduced in the House last year.

“Thank you to the Biden administration for today’s statement supporting H.R. 51,” Norton said. “The residents of our nation’s capital deserve voting representation in Congress and full local self-government, and with Thursday’s House vote and expected passage, along with Democratic control of the Senate and White House, we have never been closer to statehood.”

As I have previously explained, states have typically been admitted to the Union in pairs. There are competing bills to make the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico a state as well, completing the pair to 52 states (field of 52 stars at the top).

Matt Helder and José A. Cabrera recently wrote an op-ed at The Arizona Republic, Puerto Rico deserves to be a state. Will Rep. Raúl Grijalva help make it happen?

Puerto Ricans headed to the polls in November, just like every other American.

But rather than Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, headlining the ballot was a simple question: Should Puerto Rico be admitted as a state? Yes or no.

That’s because unlike every other American, Puerto Ricans are denied the right to vote for president, for U.S. senators and for voting members of the House of Representatives.

While previous referendums in 2012 and 2017 demonstrated that Puerto Rico preferred statehood to varying degrees, the 2020 result conclusively showed that a majority of voters want statehood.

In addition to the 53% of Puerto Rican voters who said “yes” to statehood, they also elected a second consecutive pro-statehood governor and reelected their pro-statehood congresswoman, Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, to carry their message to Washington, D.C.

1 of 2 bills ignores the will of voters

The winds of change for statehood that had been blowing for more than a decade are now undeniable.

And yet, denial of the popular will is exactly what some members of Congress seem intent on doing when it comes to listening to Puerto Rican voters.

Unlike the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, sponsored by a wide bipartisan coalition of lawmakers – including the lone representative from Puerto Rico – the Puerto Rico Self Determination Act has been introduced by members of Congress that, between all of them combined, received zero votes from residents of Puerto Rico.

Note: the lead sponsor is Rep. Nydia M.Velazquez (D-NY-7), and 21 cosponsors, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), an original cosponsor.

And this is where Arizona congressman Raúl Grijalva can play a key role at correcting this injustice, as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has congressional jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s status, by throwing his support behind the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.

It creates a new process for statehood

Unlike the Statehood bill, the Self-Determination Act disregards the results of the November 2020 referendum.

Puerto Rico’s elected government duly legislated and executed this referendum held on Election Day, and all parties that support or reject statehood participated. Voters made a choice and statehood won. Despite its name, the Self-Determination Act ironically ignores Puerto Rico’s self-determination.

Furthermore, the bill imposes a new, unprecedented process that no territory ever had to face when requesting admission. In the case of Alaska and Hawaii, both territories requested statehood, as Puerto Rico just did. Congress legislated admission acts, and voters approved the terms of admission.

The process to admit these noncontiguous states was simple – and that is what the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act proposes. Instead, the Self-Determination Act proposes a complex nonbinding process involving semipermanent status assemblies and negotiating committees in an attempt to supersede what Puerto Rican voters have already mandated.

The process patronizes Puerto Ricans

At its core, the “self-determination” act is flawed in its paternalism. The bill was introduced without the support of Puerto Rico’s governor or member of Congress. One thing on which pro-statehood and pro-independence advocates agree is the fact that Puerto Rico is governed as a colony and without sovereignty in its own internal affairs.

It is disappointing, then, that the sponsors of the bill completely discard the internal processes and votes of Puerto Rico in favor of a new congressionally imposed process in which the top Puerto Rican elected officials had no say.

The bill’s message of “you are not capable of deciding” is insulting to Puerto Rican voters and is nothing less than colonial.

For years, members of Congress have embraced the refrain of “let Puerto Ricans decide in a referendum.” If they truly believe that, then it is time to honor the votes of Puerto Ricans cast thus far, and give them the chance to vote in a binding referendum on statehood, a chance the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act would afford them.

Grijalva should support the other bill

The silver lining to the introduction of two competing bills regarding the status of Puerto Rico is that the issue is now a matter of national importance.

Rather than become mired in a stalemate at Puerto Rico’s expense, Chairman Grijalva should work with his colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee, which will be considering these opposing bills, without delay to lead on resolving Puerto Rico’s undemocratic colonial status.

As the committee does so, it should err heavily on the side of the expressed will of Puerto Rican voters and their elected representatives.

Agreed. The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act is the traditional means to statehood. If it was good enough for Alaska and Hawaii, it should be good enough for Puerto Rico. “Self-determination” means that the people of Puerto Rico decide (and they already have), not some remote congresswomen from New York.

UPDATE: The Washington D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) is fundamentally a civil rights/voting rights measure. It harkens back to our founding as a country (“no taxation without representation“). On Thursday, the House approved the Washington D.C. Admission Act, for the second time, on a party-line vote of 216-208. House approves bill to make DC a state.

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1 thought on “Washington D.C. Admission Act To Get House Vote; Rep. Grijalva Should Mark Up The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (Updated)”

  1. The House is voting Thursday on a bill that would grant D.C. statehood. POLITICO reports “D.C. statehood hits a snag in the Senate”, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/huddle/2021/04/22/dc-statehood-hits-a-snag-in-the-senate-492564

    Four Senate Dems who aren’t yet on board: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and of course, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and also Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who sounds like he is actually on board:

    “Like a lot of things like this, I want to see the details. This is pretty straightforward, but in general I feel that every American has a right to representation in the United States Congress. And there are a lot of folks that live here in D.C. There are a lot of options to do that … I think our democracy is best served when folks have representation in the United States Congress.”

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