December 08, 2012

By LD Guest Blogger Charles R. Venator-Santiago

As plebiscitary debates in Scotland and Cataluña continue to grow, the debates over the outcome of the 2012 Puerto Rican plebiscite appear to be waning with the change of government in the island. Notwithstanding, the pro-statehood interpretations of the outcomes of the 2012 plebiscite suggest that Puerto Rico could become the 51st state of the union. This entry follows up on previous posts by contextualizing some of the key debates informing possible Federal responses to the competing interpretations of the results for the 2012 plebiscite.

United States constitutional history does not provide a clear guide for the admission of new states. The Constitution is silent on the process of admitting new states into the Union. Simply put, Article IV, §3 enumerates Congress power to govern territories (c. 2) and admit new states (c.1), while §4 requires all states to establish a “republican” rather than “democratic” form of government. Moreover, although it is possible to discern some patterns from the legislative histories of the admission of the 37 states integrated into the Union, these patterns were largely a result of the political context of the period in which states were admitted. Likewise the Supreme Court has typically deferred to Congress and has not provided a clear interpretation of the statehood admissions process.

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