In a previous Blog post for the Greater Greensboro Republican Women’s Club, statehood for Washington, D.C. was discussed.  The discussion continues in Congress without any sense of when an upcoming vote in the Senate will be held.  H.R. 51, “The Washington, DC Statehood Admission Act”, passed the House April 22, 2021 by a vote of 216 to 208.  Many critics of the bills (to include S. 51) consider their passage, via a vote in Congress, unconstitutional. 

Now comes proposed legislation by Democrats to make Puerto Rico either the 51st or the 52nd state of the union, depending upon passage of statehood for Washington, DC.  H.R. 1522 and S. 780, both titled “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act of 2021” and H.R. 2070 and S. 865, both titled “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021” seek statehood for this island territory. 

The relationship between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Unites States is somewhat complex. 

Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth that is "associated" with the U.S.  Since 1917, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but since Puerto Rico isn't a state, the island's inhabitants cannot vote in presidential elections. In an odd twist, they can vote in presidential primaries, because primaries are organized by the Democratic and Republican national committees, not the federal government. Puerto Ricans pay and receive Social Security benefits. They don't pay federal income taxes although they do pay things like payroll taxes, Social Security taxes and more. Puerto Rico is in charge of its own internal affairs, but the U.S. controls interstate trade, foreign relations, customs, military service, immigration, agriculture, radio and TV and the postal service.

For Puerto Rico to become a state, it would need to convince Congress and the president that statehood is not only in the best interest of the Puerto Rican people, but in the best interest of the United States as a whole. Moreover, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives would need to approve the statehood admission by a two-thirds majority vote. 

A two-thirds vote in both chambers is impossible based on the current split between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.

(See generally:  Dave Ross, How Do New States Become Part of the U.S.? https://people.howstuffworks.com/new-state-in-us.htm, March 31, 2021.)

I hope this is of value!

Demetria Carter