An updated report from the Congressional Research Service looks at the ways that states have been formed in the past, and how that might influence Puerto Rico’s path to statehood.

In a section titled, “Multiple Statehood Methods,” the re[port says, “There is no single path to statehood. Congressional requirements for individual territories to transition to statehood have varied widely over time. Would-be states also have varied widely in the paths by which they pursued statehood, the amount of time it took to do so, and the level of public support for admission.”

This is certainly true. We have the stories of all 50 states here at PR51st. Here are just a few to show the wide range of experiences:

Each of the states has its own exciting and surprising history.

Paths to statehood

“The Constitution appears to provide only general guidance to Congress on how to admit new states,” the new report observes. “The relevant provision permits Congress to admit new states and precludes admitting states within states except as approved by the state legislatures.”

The report goes on to list “at least six paths to territorial statehood:

  • the union of the first 13 colonies;
  • presentation to Congress of a territory that is already organized like a state (commonly known as the Tennessee Plan);
  • annexation of an independent republic;
  • creation of a new state from existing states;
  • development of a state constitution without first obtaining explicit congressional support; and
  • congressional enactment of legislation to enable statehood.”

About Puerto Rico

Then the report goes on to discuss Puerto Rico. “The debate over Puerto Rico statehood proposals has been the most prominent territorial status topic considered in recent Congresses,” they say. “Generally, debate focuses on which processes voters on the island should use to indicate their status preference and whether Congress wishes to consider a status change. As of this writing, in the 118th Congress, bills that could affect Puerto Rico’s political status include H.R. 2757; S. 2944; and S. 3231.”

They remind readers that the Puerto Rico Status Act passed in the House in December 2022.

They then suggest a list of topics that might come up in thinking about statehood for Puerto Rico:

  • whether the status quo provides sufficient democratic representation and inclusion and, if not, which change, if any, would offer improvement;
  •  popular support for a status change within a territory and whether that support is sufficient for Congress;
  • how a territory’s status options were formulated and debated;
  • whether altering political status is in the national interest and in a territory’s interest, including issues of culture, defense, economics, language, and political institutions;
  • how or whether historical examples of status changes for previous territories warrant consideration.

We will be exploring this list in future articles.

Read the full report.



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