The last statehood vote, held on Dec. 13, 1998, failed to yield an acceptible majority vote on any of the five options:
- Enhanced commonwealth (0.29 percent)
- Statehood (46.4 percent)
- Independence (2.5 percent)
- Free association (0.06 percent)
- None of the above (50.3 percent)
According to the rules set up by HR2499, the people of Puerto Rico would be looking at a two-step vote. The first step would ask voters to choose between two options: Staying where they are or changing Puerto Rico's terms of affiliation with the United States. The second vote, if it goes that far, would give voters only three choices: Independence from the United States, Sovereignty in Association with the United States (Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution), and Statehood.
Congress is taking a huge gamble here. They're counting on the people of PR to be fed up with the failing of their local government (they recently had to furlough 30,000 government workers), hoping the people there will choose statehood.
Let's assume that's what happens. What then?
It's important to realize that voting on statehood is a right that the people of Puerto Rico certainly do have, and they should utilize it. Whether or not the people of PR would benefit from statehood is something only they can decide.
It is also important to realize that something like this (that is, of Democrats attempting to rig something like this in this sort of economic climate) can hardly be a surprise. This has been in the planning stages for quite some time, certainly long enough where members of Congress voting on the health care bill were aware of HR 2499 being in the works.
If Puerto Rico chooses to become a state at this time, with the economic problems that the mainland and the island are having, what effect would PR statehood have on the spending forecasts that Obama quoted so enthusiastically? (I'll ignore the fact that the "numbers" changed almost daily, even when Obama was quoting them.)
I think we can chalk this up under "lack of planning" on the part of Congress.