Logging on to the AOL homepage this morning, (I'm too lazy to change my email address), I noticed that the House Committee on Natural Resources had just voted 30-8 to favorably report HR 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 to the floor.
What this does, is set up a two-stage referendum, the first is whether or not Puerto Ricans want to change their status. If the answer is "yes" then they go on to a choice between a new "Sovereignty in Association with the United State" status, which may include stripping Puerto Ricans, even those living here, of their American citizenship; independence, which does include stripping Puerto Ricans of their American Citizenship; and statehood, which strips Puerto Ricans of their right to independence.
They do this every ten years or so, and this is a good idea, as there are a number of "activists" who claim that the people who live there want independence and are thus being repressed by not being allowed to secede and become an independent country aligned with Cuba. This has been going on for over a century, and people are wondering about why this thing isn't settled yet. Well the answer is simple: Commonwealth status is a halfway measure, similar to "organized territory" status that many of the 50 states had prior to joining the Union. It's either one way or the other, statehood or independence, and until the situation is settled there will be this kind of stuff forever.
The main argument against Puerto Rican statehood is taxation. Except for DC, it has been the policy of the federal government that there be no taxation without representation, so Puerto Ricans don't pay income tax. Balance this with the fact that they only have a kind of congressman called a "Resident Commissioner," who can only vote on the floor if it can be proven that it doesn't count. If it were a state, PR would have six full-fledged congresspeople in the House, as well as two senators.
If the people of PR actually vote to join the Union at last, they may not actually get in,
Congress would have to vote again on the subject and Obama would have to sign it (Arizona didn't get in until 1912, because Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft didn't like its proposed constitution and cast vetoes) before it would actually take place, and this ignores the possibility that the Senate may choose to ignore the bill if it passes the full House.
The other bill having to do with the reorganization of the Union is the DC Voting Rights act, which has been stuck in the Rules Committee since last March. The reason for that is that the Senate decided to place a number of amendments advocating the arming of the people of the District to an unacceptable level, as well as constitutional questions. This is another issue that will either be taken up this year or never.
So, assuming the two bills pass, will the Union expand further? The answer is clearly "no." The other four territories that have non-voting congresspeople aren't nearly big enough to have statehood, and no foreign country really wants to become a state. It's probably just as well.