Puerto Rico to vote on Statehood on Sunday

Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony up until the Spanish-American War in 1898, when it was ceded to the United States.  

The island has been an unincorporated organized territory with commonwealth constitution since 1952, when the United States gave Puerto Ricans more political autonomy.  

Notably, Puerto Rican citizens are also United States citizens because of a law passed before World War I that would require them to be in the draft.

Now, the Puerto Ricans will once again go the polls to vote on statehood, and here are the facts of this situation:

Past Votes on Statehood have all resulted in a “no,” except the most recent.

There have been four separate votes in the past; the last of which being in November of 2012.  In this vote, 54.44% of those who voted wanted to change its current political status of a Commonwealth.  And 61.11% of those people voted to become a state.  So, in December of 2012, the legilative assembly of Puerto Rico requested the President and Congress to act quickly and begin the process of statehood.  Then, in 2014 legislation was introduced in United States Congress to make it a state, but that failed early in the committee stage.

The Governor of Puerto Rico supports Statehood.

Ricky Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico, has been a leader in the statehood movement since 2010 when he founded the political advocacy group Boricua ¡Ahora Es!.  This is a group that is attempting to bring Puerto Rico into statehood.  Currently, he is the leader of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico that ran on making the island a state.  He and his wife have given dozens of speeches in recent months advocating for the statehood of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is currently in a major Financial Crisis.

The Governor of Puerto Rico wants to become a state, probably because the unincorporated island territory has $120 billion in debt and the unemployment is now at a staggering 12.5% compared to 4.7% in the mainland U.S.  When the Great Recession of 2008 hit the United States, it his Puerto Rico as well.  While the U.S. is recovering, Puerto Rico is not.  Earlier this year, Puerto Rico became the first U.S. state of territory to file for bankruptcy.  Many of the financial aspects of the island were taken over last year by a fiscal control board created by the U.S. Congress.  It was recommended that there should be major cuts to education and public services on the island, which caused riots and protests.  So, there would be largely negative economic impacts for the United States as a whole if Puerto Rico became a state.

The U.S. Congress might not even recognize the Vote.

As previously mentioned, Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2014, but Congress failed to pass any legislation.  The goal for Puerto Rico is to have such a resounding vote that Congress cannot ignore the 3.4 million citizens of the island.  In addition, the negative economic impacts of adding Puerto Rico as a state would surely get in the way of Donald Trump’s agenda of “Making America Great Again”.

Politically, It would be bad For Republicans to make Puerto Rico a State.

If Puerto Rico becomes a state, it would vote Democrat in every election.  For the last 30 years, the island has been dominated by liberal parties that are now defined by the desire for statehood.  Of the last 12 governors of Puerto Rico, 9 have been considered Democrats.  The last Republican governor was Luis Fortuño from 2009 to 2013.  During this time, Puerto Rico had its deficit cut by nearly 80% and experienced the only period of economic growth in recent history.  Oddly, since that time Puerto Ricans have wanted nothing but Democratic governors who haven’t improved the economy at all.

The Numbers Behind the Paris Climate Accord and Reactions

President Donald Trump announced yesterday that the United States would leave the Paris Climate Accord, making it one of three countries not to sign the agreement.  The United States joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not to sign the accord.  Nicaragua will not sign the accord because it does not punish countries who cannot meet their voluntary contributions to developing countries.  Syria, on the other hand, it facing major sanctions from the West and the state of their government makes it very difficult to take part in the arguments in Paris.

The Climate Deal is Costly in both Dollars and Jobs

Wealthy nations agreed to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels and use more renewable power supplies.  It was predicted by a UN official that those payments would increase to nearly $450 billion a year by the United States in 2020.  This money would be going to less developed countries in the Green Climate Fund to help them develop clean and renewable sources of energy so that they too can lower their carbon emissions.  But, as seen numerous times before, corrupt government officials in developing countries have a tendency of losing track of much of that money.

Besides costing the United States a massive amount of money, it requires certain American industries to greatly reduce in size. In total, 2.7 million jobs will be lost by 2025 according to the National Economic Research Associates.  The President stated in his announcement, “paper down 12 percent; cement down 23 percent; iron and steel down 38 percent; coal — and I happen to love the coal miners — down 86 percent; natural gas down 31 percent.  The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income and, in many cases, much worse than that.”

The Proposed Environmental Effects are Negligible

While the environmental effects of pulling out of the Paris accord did not influence the President’s decision all that much, he emphasized that China and India will get a much better deal than the U.S.  For Many Washington Republicans, this rejection of an accord is a big “déjà vu” to them.  In 2001, George W. Bush said that the U.S. would not be taking part in the Kyoto Protocol on global warming because of similar reasons.  Since that time, CO2 emissions have been reduced in the U.S. by nearly 18%, mainly due to new innovations and advances in clean energy not mandated by the government.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated yesterday that this was at a much quicker rate than most of the European countries who have led the way with the Paris Accord, but this is commonly disputed. A side note: there have already been 30 cities, 3 states, and over 100 companies who will submit a plan committed to the Paris Climate Accord, according to the New York Times.

The Reaction has been mostly Negative

This decision by Trump has many on the left beginning to talk about the apocalypse.  Paris Climate Accord leaders and European leaders have said that the agreement will still live on and that it cannot be renegotiated.  Leaders from every country in the world have expressed disappointment that the United States will leave the accord, which President Trump says is because they want to gain a huge economic advantage over the United States.  He also called the agreement a huge wealth redistribution scheme from the United States to other countries.

5 Fast Facts: The New GOP Repeal and Replace Bill

After the failure of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on the 24th of last month, President Trump and his team have seemed to shift their focus to tax reform. Slow progress to achieve major tax reform and a renewed interest in fixing the “broken” Obamacare have pushed Republicans to come up with a better plan that last one that miserably failed in the Congress. Despite Mr. Trump’s former plan to let O-Care explode in the Democrats’ faces, the R’s are adamant in finding a strong fix for the Affordable Care Act that has raised rates and decreased coverage for many people. Here are five facts that come from sources familiar with the amendment as well as a Freedom Caucus member about the New GOP Repeal and Replace Bill:

1. It’s meant to bridge the gap between the Freedom Caucus and the moderates.

With the original AHCA, there were well over 30 Republicans in the house who were prepared to vote “no”.  Most moderate Republican’s liked it, but the members of the more conservative Freedom Caucus couldn’t get on board.  They complained that the AHCA too closely resembled Obamacare because it was not “free-market” enough for them.

2. Now, it has a much better chance of making it through the House.

“A Freedom Caucus source told CNBC the changes to the health bill would secure 25 to 30 ‘yes’ votes from the Freedom Caucus, and the new bill would get ‘very close’ to 216 votes. The source said that 18 to 20 of those ‘yes’ votes would be new.”

3. It keeps many of the good parts of the ACA.

As the original AHCA would, it still doesn’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, and children can stay on their parents’ plan up to the age of 26.

4. It creates a limited waiver program.

The amendment would create an option for states to obtain Limited Waivers from certain federal standards is created, to lower premium costs and expand the number of insured persons.  In other words, states can get out of certain regulations if it would make the bill more effective and efficient.

5. There is no vote scheduled on the bill, yet.

Although no vote is scheduled in the immediate future, the amendment (and the bill itself) could be voted on as early as next week.  Discussions between top GOP members are expected to take place on Saturday.

Neil Gorsuch Confirmation Vote: The Numbers, Facts, and Summary

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote in the Senate is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 7, 2017, after debate between Republicans and Democrats ended rather abruptly on Monday. The Republicans were able to confirm Mr. Gorsuch, and here are the numbers, facts, and summary of the historic vote:

  1. 54-45: Mr. Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54-45 vote in the Senate on Thursday, continuing a string of close votes of nominees by President Donald Trump. The vote was so close that Vice President Mike Pence sat
  2. Filibuster -> Nuclear Option: Typically, a SCOTUS nominee needs at least 60 votes to be confirmed. With a divided 52-48 R/D split in the Senate, Mr. Gorsuch would not legally have been able to be confirmed by the Senate. Nonetheless, Democrats tried a filibuster (a halt) to make a last attempt to stop the confirmation vote. However, the Republicans were able to use a Democratic invention, the Nuclear Option (facts here), to confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority. That means only 51 votes, an easily attainable number since there are 52 Republicans in the Senate.
  3. Three Dems Crossed Lines: The SCOTUS vote was expected to be split among party lines. However, three Democrats – North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly – voted with the Republicans to confirm Mr. Gorsuch. The Democratic leaders in the Senate surprisingly did not lash out at the three Senators, but the three may face extra scrutiny in their upcoming elections.
  4. Conservative Tilt: Mr. Gorsuch confirmation means that the Supreme Court will have a 5-4 Conservative tilt, which may lead to a more conservative agenda over the next however many years until many of the older judges reach retirement age. There is one catch, though: Chief Justice John Roberts has been known to cast the deciding vote, and has also been known to vote on the more liberal side for some issues and the more conservative side on other issues.
  5. 419 Day Battle: The confirmation of Mr. Gorsuch ends a 419 day battle to confirm the final SCOTUS seat. The battle started when Notoriously Conservative Judge Antonin Scalia suddenly died in February 2017. President Barack Obama, with one year left on his term, nominated liberal Jude Merrick Garland for the empty seat. The Republicans, with a majority in the Senate, successfully blocked the nomination until the election in hopes of a Republican win. When current President Donald J. Trump won, he was legally allowed to nominate his own choice for the empty SCOTUS seat and chose Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Rob and Kyle both contributed to this report