Last Wednesday, July 22, HR 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (the Island's representative in the Congress) was voted on by the House Natural Resources Committee with a 30-8 win for Mr. Pierluisi (8 Republicans voted yea and 7 voted nay). It now goes to the full floor.
This should not come as a surprise, since President Obama promised during the campaign that he would support Puerto Rico's attempt to determine their political future. What is most surprising is that, historically, Puerto Ricans lean more to the Republican side of the isle since that side has expressed greater support than the Democrats.
Congressman Pierluisi argued that his constituents chose him knowing that he would caucus with the Democrats. What he may not tell you is that he ran with the endorsement of a Republican, Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico's Governor. In the United States a congressional candidate does not "run" together with a candidate for Governor. They may do some campaign appearances together, but it stops there. In Puerto Rico you would hear slogans such as "El momento del Cambio es AHORA con Luis Fortuño y Pedro Pierluisi" "The moment of Change is NOW with Luis Fortuno and Pedro Pierluisi". Campaign posters would have both of their photos.
Our "state" legislature is overwhelmingly conservative. The political parties on the Island have no affiliation to the platforms of the U.S. political parties, and conservative politicians can be found in all Puerto Rican parties. Efforts against, for example, abortion rights and gay marriage have received overwhelming support. If a conservative agenda is not always successful it is simply because politicians rarely cross party lines in order to garner the support needed to make it happen.
Should Puerto Rico become a state it would add two senators and seven representatives to the Congress; we should expect that these new members will come from the same conservatives that now hold office in the "state" legislature. Once political enemies are likely to become friends under a conservative American party. Democrats and Republicans have known this for decades. It took a new kid in town to make a promise that he may end up regretting. But a promise is a promise, and Democrats seem to be willing to go along with it.