The bipartisan bill was filed on June 27 by Jennifer González-Colón, a non-voting Republican congresswoman from Puerto Rico. The aim is to make Puerto Rico a state by Jan. 2021.
“This is the first step to open a serious discussion to determine the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico,” González told NBC News. “To sum everything up, this is about equality.”
More than a 30 Democrats and Republicans had supported the bill up to press time. Some cited the sluggish response of the U.S. government to the damage caused to Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria as a reason the U.S. territory needed statehood.
“The hard truth is that Puerto Rico’s lack of political power allows Washington to treat Puerto Rico like an afterthought, as the federal government’s inadequate preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria made crystal clear,” Florida Democratic Cngresswoman Stephanie Murphy told NBC News.
Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory. It was acquired following the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but not allowed to vote in presidential elections.
Puerto Rico doesn’t have a congressional representative with full voting powers.