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Statehood: a D.C./Puerto Rico double bill?

Could the District and Puerto Rico achieve statehood as a package deal?

The electoral plights of both regions have been in the news of late. Last week, the House approved a bill giving residents of Puerto Rico a chance to vote on whether to become a state, among other options. The week before, House leaders decided to cancel a scheduled vote on a bill that would give D.C. a voting representative in Congress because gun-rights supporters wanted to attach language many city leaders couldn't stomach.

At House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) weekly press briefing Tuesday, WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin asked, "Do you see the day where Puerto Rico and D.C. come in together as states, similar to Alaska and Hawaii?"

"I don't think so, Mark," Hoyer responded.

Hawaii and Alaska joined the union together in 1959, with the understanding that one was likely to be a Democratic state and the other Republican. (At the time, Alaska was considered to be the Democratic one, but the two states have since flipped ideologically.)

The dynamic would be different now, since D.C. is heavily Democratic and Puerto Rico - though more evenly split - leans in the same direction. Besides, Hoyer said, "We shouldn't have to make a deal about how the District of Columbia comes in."

Hoyer also noted that the goals of D.C. are different than those of Puerto Rico, which some residents want to become a sovereign nation. The bill passed by the House last week calls for a two-step process in which Puerto Ricans could vote first on whether they want to change the territory's current status. If they do want a change, citizens would then be able to choose among four different options, including statehood or full independence.

"There's really not an analogy" between the two, Hoyer said.

The Maryland lawmaker said he would keep working to get a D.C. voting rights bill passed into law. He noted that the language changing the District's gun laws had now been introduced as a standalone bill in both the House and Senate, raising the possibility that it could get attached to some other piece of legislation and passed into law without affecting the fate of the D.C. voting rights measure.

Plotkin also asked whether Congress might move soon toward granting the District budgetary and legislative autonomy

"As a practical matter my judgment is, legislative autonomy is, if you mean, total autonomy where Congress would not have further jurisdiction over the seat of the federal government ... I frankly don't think that would have large support," Hoyer said.

Instead, Hoyer said, he would be happy if Congress simply "does not exercise that authority on matters clearly of local relevance, as opposed to dealing with the nation's capital."

-- Ben Pershing

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  May 4, 2010; 5:12 PM ET
Categories:  Voting Rights  
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Comments

With 13 liberal left wing Democratic D.C. Councilmembers and mayor, Congress need to strip Home Rule from the District. 3 Commissioners need to be put back in place as they had when I was a child.

As long as we have liberals in the John Wilson Building supportting illegal immigration, bills against Arizona immigration bill, etc., we will should never become a State. D.C. is a sanctuary city and we are an embarrassment to the nation.

Posted by: Ward4DC | May 4, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I do not see an analogy between DC and Puerto Rico.
DC is originally a part of Maryland and a part of Virginia made into a district while Puerto Rico is a latin american island nation with it's very own culture, language, national identity and over 500 years of history.

Posted by: tampr2 | May 4, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

The solution is not statehood but retrocession. It is the only Constitutional solution to the problem. Under the retrocession scenario, residential areas of the current District would be returned to Maryland. As residents of the city or county of Washington, MD, Washingtonians would be represented by their own Congressman and the senators of Maryland. The new Federal District would be carved around the Federal Core of the city to include the Capitol grounds, the Supreme Court, the Mall, the White House/Old Executive Building compound (including Lafayette Park), the Federal Triangle, the area south of E St NW from 18th Street to the Potomac, and the Federal Agencies south of Independence Avenue. Plus, it has precedence, in 1847 Congress returned Alexandria and Arlington back to Virginia.

Posted by: joshsanz | May 5, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

I don't know how you can say that Puerto Rico is likely to lean to the Democrats. If the Puerto Rican electorate votes for statehood with a majority, the NPP government plans to run an election for their Senate and House Reps a month or two later with the intent to send them to Washington and demand they be sat, a la Tennessee crica 1796. Who are the pro-state electorate gonna elect? PDP candidates who were against statehood, or NPP candidates who were for it? Obviously they're gonna elect the later, the great majority of whom are Republicans. They're guaranteed to elect 2 Republican Senators and the majority of the House seats will be Republicans.

Posted by: timortiz | May 5, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

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