Washington - Yesterday, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the D.C. statehood bill with 155 Democrat cosponsors and Nancy Pelosi´s support.
That is D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) to make the District of Columbia the U.S. 51st state,
At a time when Republican leaders of the House Committee on Natural Resources recommended legislating a “statehood: yes-or-no” referendum on the island, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice, D.C. leaders renewed their efforts in favor of making Washington the U.S. 51st state.
Along with D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said that this year there should be a vote on the House floor, and she considered that Pelosi's support is the best guarantee for that vote.
"For too long, the residents of the District of Columbia have served our nation in uniform, paid taxes and contributed to the economic power and success of our country while being denied the full enfranchisement that is their right" said Pelosi, in a statement published minutes before the leaders´press conference.
For the House Speaker, who returned to chair the body on Thursday, Holmes Norton's bill, “is a critical step in righting this historic wrong."
Elijah Cummings (Maryland), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has said he will hold a hearing and markup in 2019.
However, the legislation may die in Republican-controlled Senate (53-47). Not a single Republican supported a similar measure in the last Congress. Residents of Washington D.C., overwhelmingly Democratic, would have two senators and one House member if the bill were passed.
During last Congress, 181 Democrats (more than 90 percent of that caucus), supported the idea of creating the state of Columbia in the area of Washington D.C. In the Senate, the idea gained the support from 30 Democrats.
While she acknowledges that the next status process will be legislated in San Juan, Jennifer González, Resident Commissioner in Washington, reaffirmed yesterday that she intends to introduce a statehood proposal for Puerto Rico and seek that Republican Senator Rick Scott (Florida) - who will be sworn in on Tuesday - introduces another measure in the Senate.
Her bill promoted the creation of a task force that would look into the changes needed to incorporate Puerto Rico as a state.
González's bill - HR 6246 – was co-sponsored by 58 members of Congress, 26 Republicans and 32 Democrats. A similar bill was never introduced in the Senate.
During the previous administration, former Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi proposed legislation that would have allowed a statehood yes/no referendum, which he sought to relate to a process of admission of the island as a state. That measure had the support of 110 members of Congress (96 Democrats and 14 Republicans).
Before the end of last Congress, Rob Bishop, former chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, considered that since the government of Puerto Rico did not wait for the U.S. Department of Justice to certify the June 2017 plebiscite, a yes/no statehood referendum should be held in San Juan.
Bishop recommended to use the January 2014 federal law which would enable the U.S. Department of Justice to certify that the status ballot language complies with constitutional, legal and public policy rules, in exchange for $ 2.5. million to help finance the referendum.
In the last referendum on statehood hold in Washington D.C. in 2016, 86 percent of the voters supported the proposal to make the District the 51st state. The referendum had a voter turnout of 55 percent, while 62 percent voted for President.
Washington residents have no representation in Congress, they have a non-voting delegate, however, an amendment to the U.S. constitution grants the District residents the right to vote in presidential elections.
In Puerto Rico´s 2017 referendum, 97 percent of the voters supported statehood, amid a boycott of opposition parties and the lowest voter turnout in a status referendum (23 percent).
For Bishop, the lack of support from the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed to challenge those results.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has rejected the idea of advancing the statehood proposal for Puerto Rico, and his ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) Carlos Trujillo said -on behalf of the Department of State- that there is no consensus on the island regarding their political future and rejected the results of the 2012 and 2017 referendums, which the New Progressive Party (PNP) leadership considers as victories for their statehood proposal.
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