Rep. Ritchie Torres spoke with Yahoo Finance in an interview. They asked him about Puerto Rico statehood.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table,” he said, “then you’re probably on the menu. In the United States, statehood means a seat at the table. It would mean billions of dollars in resources and representation for Puerto Rico. It would mean two U.S. senators and five members of Congress. It would mean billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like SNAP and Medicare and higher education.”
“My view is that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, so why not make them equal citizens under the law? It’s the best solution to inequality. The only solution to inequality in equality, which can only be conferred by statehood.
“I see the colonization of Puerto Rico, the disenfranchisement of three million U. S. citizens on the Island to be a deep rot at the very core of American Democracy. I mean, how can we claim to be a democratic society when we deny the fundamental right to vote to three million Americans? How can we claim to be democratic when we subvert the government of Puerto Rico in favor of a financial control board that is neither representative offer accountable to the people on the Island?”
Asked about the filibuster, Torres said “We have more momentum than ever for Puerto Rican statehood.” He pointed out that exceptions to the filibuster have been made in the past and said he was “cautiously optimistic” that this tradition — which, in practical terms, requires 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate — could be bypassed.
“The people have spoken. In November of 2020, a majority of the Puerto Rican electorate cast their ballots for statehood. When the people have spoken, we in Congress have an obligation to legislate what the people have voted for. That is self-determination. That is democracy. That is decolonization.”
The interviewer asked about the bill introduced by Nydia Velazquez and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, which would delay action on statehood for Puerto Rico.
“Their legislation ignores the will of the Puerto Rican electorate,” he said. “If the people of Puerto Rico decide to express their political will through a plebiscite, we should respect it. We should legitimize the results of the plebiscite, rather than delegitimize the process simply because we disagree with the results that it produces.”
Torres, a cosponsor of HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill, is a long-time supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico.