New Puerto Rico statehood bill faces long odds in Congress

Puerto Rico renewed its push for statehood a year ago after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island in 2017.

The new legislation also calls for the banning of all coal plants.

"This bill is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico".

The latest effort to make Puerto Rico the 51st state was introduced in Congress on Thursday amid renewed focus on the commonwealth and the U.S. government's response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico back in September 2017 and virtually wiped out the island's decades-old power grid, Puerto Rico has placed its focus on obtaining power from renewables. The current Constitution of Puerto Rico would become the state constitution.

""(CNN) Tensions are escalating between President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico's governor over disaster relief efforts that have been slow in coming for the still-battered island after Hurricane Maria.

"Our Republican friends are going to have to tell Donald Trump his cold, cruel-hearted, and divisive policy of not giving any of the aid, not letting any of the aid that's been already allocated to Puerto Rico, to be distributed there, must fall", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on the Senate floor. And now a group of lawmakers in the U.S. House is saying the time has come for statehood.

"It's time to end 120 years of colonialism for Puerto Ricans", Soto, D-Orlando, says in a statement.

In 1993, Presidents Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush took to the airwaves to urge Puerto Ricans to vote for statehood in an island-wide referendum. It has the full support of Puerto Rico's non-voting Republican representative, Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon. Most recently, in a 2017 referendum, 97 percent of those who cast ballots voted for statehood. A March 2018 report in Politico showed the administration had by then sent far more support to Texas after Hurricane Harvey than to Puerto Rico after Maria, both in terms of the speed and size of the assistance.

Under a deal reached by Obama and the Republican Congress, Puerto Rico's budgets must now be approved by a fiscal control board, appointed by Congress and the White House, that has pushed cuts to health care, education and other programs run by the island's government. "I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it".

  • Jon Douglas