DC and Puerto Rico share the long-ignored dream of statehood

TheHill | 1/14/2019 | Andrés L. Córdova, opinion contributor
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Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico share the fundamental aspiration of statehood, although framed within different historical and constitutional contexts. Both jurisdictions are subject to the powers of Congress and have one non-voting member in the House of Representatives. There is also a broad recognition by the majority of the American citizens in each jurisdiction that the only way they can each achieve effective and politically meaningful representation in Congress is through statehood.

On Jan. 3, congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) introduced bill H.R. 51 to make Washington D.C. the 51st state. According to her statement, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is committed to holding a hearing and mark up for the bill this year. The committee has not held hearing on statehood for D.C. since 1993. Press reports indicate that the bill has the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and is cosponsored by 155 congressmen, all Democrats.

Congress - Puerto - Rico - Resident - Commissioner

In the previous Congress, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.) had also presented a statehood admission bill for Puerto Rico. This bill was stalled by the then Republican leadership in the House, notwithstanding their alleged support for statehood. González-Colón has stated that she will present the bill again in this new Congress, as well as promote the introduction of a similar bill in the Senate. In the House, Puerto Rico is under the House Natural Resources Committee, now chaired by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who has already expressed his aversion to attending the status issue for Puerto Rico.

Different to Puerto Rico, which is subject to the plenary powers of Congress under the Constitution, D.C. is subject to the exercise of the exclusive legislation of Congress. This structural difference in constitutional authority gives rise to certain anomalies that should be noted. For example, being a part of the...
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