The Senate Statehood Bill

Senators Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Brian Schatz  of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Alex Padilla of California have introduced a companion statehood bill to the Senate.

This bill goes with the bill that Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón and Rep. Darren Soto of Florida brought to the House.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate must approve a bill before it can become a law. Sometimes the two chambers have separate and different bills and then must work together to harmonize the two before they can send the law to the president for a signature.

When both have identical bills, they are known as companion bills. That is the case here. H.R. 1552 and S. 780 are identical.

The Senators’ thoughts

“Last November, a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood and for full voting representation in the United States. Congress now has a moral responsibility to respond,” said Heinrich at his website. “That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives González-Colón and Soto and introduce this bicameral legislation that will create a clear and direct path to formally admit Puerto Rico as a state. My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico statehood bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States. It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve.”

“I have always believed that the Americans living in Puerto Rico needed to be able to decide their future status. They have made it loud and clear — several times — that they want Puerto Rico statehood,” said Wyden. “These American citizens deserve full representation in Congress and equal access to essential federal services. Puerto Rico should be treated the same as all the territories that came before them — they want statehood and should be provided that path.”

Wyden has been involved in discussions about Puerto Rico’s status for years, and has been a statehood supporter for some time.

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens, yet they have been denied access to the full benefits of our democracy – most notably voting representation in Congress and the right to vote in our Presidential general elections. Too often our government’s response to natural disasters and economic crises on the island has been woefully inadequate,” said Padilla. “Providing Puerto Ricans with a clear path to approve statehood will go a long way toward ensuring the wellbeing, safety, and economic security of our fellow American citizens.”

Reactions from the House

“The only way to achieve constitutional citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico is by admitting the territory as a State of the Union. Although Puerto Rico is fully integrated into the nation’s economic system, it is foreign for tax purposes, not incorporated for tariff purposes, and receives unequal treatment under more than 40 critical federal programs. It is clear that under the current status, Puerto Rico’s economy will continue to lag behind those of the 50 States. There is only one way to change this, and it is through Puerto Rico’s admission as a State,” said Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s delegate to Congress and a Member of the House of Representatives. “This bill precisely seeks that, the transition to statehood as the people of Puerto Rico requested three consecutive times at the ballot box. I want to commend Senator Martin Heinrich for joining Puerto Rico’s quest for equality and leading this important effort in the Senate.”

Darren Soto, a congressman from Florida, also looks forward to working on the new law. “Our quest for statehood is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico,” he said. “We look forward to working with President Biden and congressional leaders from both parties and chambers to advance and pass the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. Together we will forge a new chapter in our nation’s history when Puerto Rico becomes a full and equal member of the United States.”

Governor Pierluisi

Governor Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico also thanked Senator Heinrich. “I thank Senator Martin Heinrich, who as our Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and our friend Congressman Darren Soto have done on the House side, has introduced a statehood bill in the Senate to respond to Puerto Ricans who seek the seat at the table that they have earned and deserve. The voice of the American citizens from Puerto Rico must be heard and their democratically expressed will must become a reality. We will consent to inequality no more.”

Read the full text of the bill.

What next?

Senator Heinrich has described the bill as one which will “provide a formal offer of statehood.” Once the Senate and the House have approved their respective bills, the law will go to President Biden for his signature. This can be a lengthy process.

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