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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Brian Wilson

Washington, DC

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Puerto Rico State Debate Continues

April 30, 2010 - 5:11 PM | by: Brian Wilson

Old Glory — thirteen stripes representing the original colonies. On the field of blue — 50 stars representing the 50 states. But could that flag one day soon have 51 stars?

I’m not talking about statehood for the District of Columbia. Most residents of D.C. desperately want to be an independent state, but recent moves to make that happen imploded in Congress before even coming to a vote. No – I’m talking about Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that belongs to, but is not a part of, the United States.

Right now, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, though most don’t pay income taxes. They do not vote in presidential elections and the resident commissioner who represents them in congress cannot vote. Residents of the island nation have long been split on the issue of statehood.

So, it was surprising this week when Congress debated and passed a measure that would allow Puerto Ricans to vote on whether they want to change their relationship with the U.S. If they vote yes — there would be a second vote to decide if they want to:

A.) Become a state.

B.) Become an independent nation.

C.) Seek some other type of political association between sovereign nations.

One of the people pushing this move is the current Republican governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno.

“I’m convinced that the framers of the Constitution, the founding fathers, never intended for this relationship to last 112 years,” Fortuno told Fox News during the congressional debate.

One member who voted against the measure thinks Congress is going about this all wrong. Washington State Republican. Rep. Doc Hastings, believes the House is “blessing a process by which we are asking them if they want to become a state.” Hastings continued, “to me that’s backwards.”

The weird thing about the House vote is that members were not whipped along party lines. Some democrats voted for it … others against. House Minority Leader John Boehner,R-Ohio, voted against it, but two members of the Republican leadership — Eric Cantor or Virginia and Mike Pence of Ohio — voted for it.

Nothing about this seems imminent or likely. The bill probably won’t even clear the Senate. Even if it did … and even if Puerto Ricans decided that they wanted full-state status, there would be many in Congress who would oppose statehood.

And there is this — if Puerto Rico were to become a state, how could we as Americans ever deal with the jealous outrage certain to erupt in the Northern Mariana Islands?

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