Alaska Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young said during a hearing this morning that he supports a congressional bill that would chart the path for Puerto Rico to become a state, arguing that its potential political impact on national politics should not hold up statehood.
Young, the longest serving member of Congress who took office only 14 years after Alaska statehood, has long been a supporter of Puerto Rico’s statehood and made the comments today in support of H.R. 1522, which is the latest effort to push statehood through Congress, during a hearing of a subcommittee of House Committee on Natural Resources.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Puerto Rico Democratic Rep. Jennifer González and Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto. Young has long supported the effort, noting that Puerto Rico has already taken three votes on the matter. Young in 1998 authored the only Puerto Rico statehood bill to ever pass through either chamber of Congress.
“I believe in statehood and I believe in Jennifer’s bill. I think it’s time,” he said in comments reposted by González to Twitter. “It’s long overdue, we talk about this all the time. Puerto Rico was supposed to be the state after Alaska, even before Alaska. … Let’s not take and plow fields that have been plowed before, the people have spoken and let’s have the vote. Let’s have a 51st state.”
There are other legislative proposals for statehood but they would present what González said would be a more cumbersome approach to statehood. This legislation would follow the same process used to establish Alaska and Hawaii as states and would require a vote from Puerto Rico voters.
Talk about statehood for Puerto Rico—and Washington, D.C.—have gained traction this year with Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House. Young said his party’s opposition to Puerto Rico’s statehood is driven out of fear that it’d be another Democratic state, but said those fears should have no place when it comes to statehood and self-determination.
“I have some opposition from my side about, ‘They’ll all be Democrats.’ They said the same thing about Alaska and now we’re all Republicans. Everybody has the right to decide who they’re gonna be,” he said. “Don’t pre-think what they’re going to be because it doesn’t work out that way. Hawaii was supposed to be Republican.”
As for D.C.’s statehood, Young outlined his opposition last year. He argued that under the U.S. Constitution, D.C. “was meant to be an independent federal district.”
“The framers intended for territories to be eligible for statehood, and I have long advocated for Puerto Rican statehood. I authored the only Puerto Rico statehood bill ever to pass the House, and I am very proud of that. Puerto Rico has been treated very unfairly due to its current status, which is a contributing factor to its ongoing debt crisis,” he said. “D.C. is doing well financially, which is precisely why the need for Puerto Rican statehood is far more urgent.”