Will Puerto Rico Become The 51st State? Not So Fast
The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to admit new states to the union. But Congress does not appear to have the appetite to take up something as momentous as adding a 51st state of the union with questions surrounding the validity of the referendum, a deep partisan divide, and a long to-do list that includes the fiscal cliff, the federal budget deficit, and immigration reform.
In an interview with Puerto Rico's most influential newspaper El Nuevo Día, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) predicted that Congress would not give Puerto Rico's status serious attention. Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and supports changing the island's status, criticized the ballot measure for lacking "transparency" and even suggested that status was put on the ballot as an effort to drum up support for the pro-statehood Fortuño, who is also a Republican.
There are also suggestions that the GOP-controlled House would be hesitant to grant statehood to Puerto Rico because it could help tip the balance of power in Congress. With nearly four million people, Puerto Rico would be granted two senators and approximately six new representatives to the House if it becomes a state, according to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report. Predicting the partisan breakdown is an inexact science, but many believe that most representatives would be Democrats.
GOP consultant Javier Ortiz, who has strong ties to the island and supports statehood, rejected that characterization.
"I think that there is plenty of understanding in the Republican leadership that it is unlikely that Puerto Rico is unlikely to be all Republican or all Democrat," said Ortiz. "The more likely scenario is that there is a broad cross section of those who support both parties."