White House press secretary: Congress has to address Puerto Rico referendum
SAN JUAN – In Monday afternoon’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to the results of the political status referendum held Sunday in Puerto Rico as having enough weight to be considered by the U.S. Congress.
“Now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico, this is something that Congress has to address,” Spicer said. Statehood was the winning political status option in the non-binding referendum, with 97% of the votes. About 23% of the island’s registered voters participated in the ballot.
In a press release soon after the Washington briefing, La Fortaleza said the Puerto Rican electorate’s choice in favor of statehood “has begun to have an effect in Washington, D.C.”
“It is now the turn of the United States Congress to take action and address the claim made by the people of Puerto Rico. Just as we had said earlier, the democratic expression of the people has weight and this same week the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, will be communicating the results of the plebiscite to both Congress and the White House,” Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario said in the release.
The Puerto Rican official said the governor “is committed” to validate the results, which were criticized by the Popular Democratic (PDP) and Puerto Rican Independence (PIP) parties, who claimed the vote had been a failure and that their boycott had worked.
The governor is expected to travel to the Washington, D.C., this week to inform the U.S. government about the results of the referendum, in which free association / independence obtained 1.5% of the votes and the current commonwealth status received 1.32%.
Several members of the U.S. Congress have made expressions in support of addressing the vote’s results and the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status.
“The voters who participated in Puerto Rico’s status referendum expressed an unambiguous desire to continue seeking a future in common with the United States as an equal member of our union,” U.S House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said Monday. “I hope Congress and the administration will listen to those voices and enable Puerto Rico to become the 51st state. Its people — already American citizens — deserve full and equal representation in the Congress and equal treatment by federal agencies.”
“The ballot was fair, and those who voted overwhelmingly chose statehood. In our democracy, only those who go to vote get counted. … I will always support equality through statehood for the 3.4 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) said after polls closed.
“Puerto Rico has some problems. We want to resolve them in Congress,” Don Young (R-Alaska) said in a televised message while at the State Elections Commission. He added that he would work with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to make the results of the plebiscite heard.