Congress can make Puerto Rico into a state with a simple majority. Alaska, for example, became a state with just 56% of Congress voting in favor. 51% is enough. It requires just a simple majority vote to admit Puerto Rico.
For example, if 51% of Congress votes YES in HR 1522, PuertoRico will become a state (if voters approve). It really is that simple.
House Joint Resolution 42 would change that. It calls for an amendment to the Constitution that requires 67% of the Congress to vote YES in order to admit a state.
If this rule had been in place in 1959, Hawaii would have been admitted, but Alaska would not.
Rep. Tom McClintock proposed this rule, and four other reps have co-sponsored it.
What’s the point? Right now, the Democratic Party is in control of Congress. That means that it would be fairly easy right now for Congress to admit a state that would usually vote for Democrats for their House and Senate seats. Since McClintock is a Republican, he doesn’t want that to happen.
Of course, when the Republican Party is in control of Congress, he would probably want to be able to admit a Republican state easily. Requiring two thirds of Congress to agree to admit any new state could prevent any new states from being admitted.
Two new states are now being considered in Congress: Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Two proposed states, two different situations
Washington, D.C., is a district, not a territory, and many people think that it could not become a state without a constitutional amendment anyway. Here are a few serious arguments from some serious organizations:
We are not taking a position on this question. We’re just acknowledging that statehood for D.C. was bringing up constitutional questions before HJR 42 was proposed.
Puerto Rico, on the other hand, is a territory of the United States. 32 territories have already been admitted as states, and there is no question in anyone’s mind about the constitutionality of statehood for Puerto Rico.
Washington, D.C., is also clearly a Democratic-leaning district. The Democratic candidate has won in D. C. in every single presidential election since 1976.
Puerto Rico, on the other hand, has never been able to vote in a presidential election. The Republican and Democratic parties are not the main political parties on the Island, and both Democrats and Republicans have won the governorship and the Resident Commissioner position. Puerto Rico would be a swing state.
Is it really about the parties?
Sometimes when we hear that Republicans don’t want to admit Puerto Rico for fear of democratic senators, we have trouble believing it. It seems unreasonable to refuse to admit a state because of the way you guess its residents might vote.
However, this has been an argument for and against admitting states almost throughout American history. McClintock is not shy about admitting that this is his motivation.
Here’s what he tweeted: “The attempt to create a state from the District of Columbia is a brazen abuse of power with the obvious intention to pack the U.S. Senate. I introduced H.J. Res. 42, a constitutional amendment to require a 2/3 vote for the admission of states. Such reform would assure that new states are only created with bi-partisan consensus.”
We can see that McClintock was thinking about D.C. rather than Puerto Rico when he proposed this joint resolution. We can also see that he was worrying about Democrats trying to “pack the Congress.” This phrase takes off from “court packing,” a term that came into the language in 1937. President Roosevelt was accused of trying to pack the court with justices who would vote the way he wanted them to vote.
Every Democrat in Congress wants more Democrats in Congress, and every Republican wants more Republicans. Admitting new states has been used as a tool to accomplish this in the past.
However, statehood for Puerto Rico is a bipartisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats support it.
Ask your representatives to support statehood for Puerto Rico, whether they are Democratic or Republican.