Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Brian Frydenborg Supports Statehood for Puerto Rico and DC ASAP to Help Bring Balance to the Senate and Our Nation

(Traduce en español/translate to Spanish) Many of the problems the problems facing our country today stem in part from a wildly unrepresentative U.S. Senate blocking so much progress and necessary reform (see pages 48-50 in one of my graduate school papers for some examples and context), from the imbalance in the Supreme Court to aid for Ukraine to sensible gun regulation.  Because of the Senate’s innate bias towards far less-populated, far more rural, far whiter state populations, the Republican senators who have engaged in creating this imbalance have represented roughly 39 million to, most recently, 54 million fewer Americans in recent years than Senate Democrats.  This is clearly a tyranny of an unrepresentative minority.

But we can fight back, in numerous ways.  On top of my recent proposals to reduce the threshold of the filibuster from 60 votes to 55 and expand the U.S. Supreme Court by four more seats to 13 total, I am supporting the campaigns for statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, both of which would help adjust the unrepresentative bias against nonwhite, non-rural voters in the Senate, making passing the legislations we need to much more likely.

Puerto Rico was acquired by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has had an odd history or being autonomous to varying degrees but today is in a no-man’s land of not being an actual state; its 3.2 million people are U.S. citizens but reside in what is now classified as a U.S. Territory: that means it has no representatives with binding, counting votes in either the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate even though the island territory has more people than roughly twenty of the U.S. states that collectively account for roughly 40 out of 100 Senate votes.  And this has had consequences that have harmed Puerto Rico, one glaring example being the inability of its people to hold the U.S. government accountable for the gross disparity in hurricane rescue, relief, and aid efforts from the federal government after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared with federal efforts to assist states hurt by hurricanes around the same time, such as Florida after Hurricane Irma and Texas after Hurricane Harvey.  Were this Puerto Rico’s status to change and it to be admitted as a state into the Union, the territory turned state would be given House seats and, like every other state, two U.S. Senate seats.  While Puerto Ricans’ views and votes on statehood have evolved over time, the three latest votes—in 2012, 2017, and 2020—all had a majority of Puerto Rican voters in favor of statehood.  We also have close to six million Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland who can be approached and engaged in this effort, too, and we should be honest: the wonderful, hardworking Puerto Rican people are Americans, adding their wonderful culture to our tapestry of many cultures.

We can approach Puerto Ricans not acting like we are doing them a favor in granting statehood (though statehood could help Puerto Rico in important ways), but be clear we are asking them for their help.  We can make it clear that we want them to join us as fully equal political citizens and that we could really use their help rectifying the gross imbalances in our political system, fighting for justice and policies that benefit all Americans.

A bipartisan bill to move forward with a new binding vote on statehood in Puerto Rice passed the House late in 2022, but was never taken up in the Senate.  As that bipartisan coalition wants to continue its effort, I mean to be a vocal leader in the Senate on this effort: we should put Puerto Rico on the official path to statehood as soon as possible.

The same goes for the city of Washington as the District of Columbia.  There are many reasons why Washington, DC should have statehood, most famous being the simple principle that the Americans whose primary residence is DC suffer from what the Colonial-era American patriots complained of: “taxation without representation,” for many years now part of the phrasing on local DC license plates

DC has more people than two states—Vermont and Wyoming—that each have their own representatives in the House and two senators each in the Senate, too. 

Furthermore, many of the Washingtonians whose primary residence is the District are those who serve and work for our federal government and enable it to operate on a day-to-day basis while many others are descendants of freedman, the former slaves who settled in Washington often as refugees before, during, and after the Civil War: it seems terribly wrong to deny so many public servants and their families and so many who are the descendants of those who suffered from America’s Original Sin of slavery the representation in Congress that all Americans living primarily in the fifty states have.

While there may (or may not) be some potential constitutional issues with making a federal district a state, we still must press forward with the campaign to give the U.S. citizens of Washington, District of Columbia equal rights as U.S. citizens in the form of full representation in the Congress, in both the House and with two Senators in the Senate.  I will be a leading voice on this effort and try to tie it to the effort to give the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico full representation, too.

Not only will making Puerto Rico and Washington full states with full delegations in Congress help address the unfair, unjustifiable bias against non-rural and non-white Americans in the Senate, it will also help bring balance to a House that has been gerrymandered for years to disproportionately benefit Republicans.  I will help lead the fight to do to justice not only for Marylanders in Maryland, but for Washingtonians in the District of Colombia, Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, and Americans in the nation as a whole in the U.S. Senate.

Come see Brian debate other candidates, including the two frontrunners, this Saturday in Silver Spring, moderated by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. Register here now as space is filling up! You can also sign up to watch via Zoom here! Also see Brian’s related Real Context News article about how this policy fits with his filibuster and Supreme Court policies. Support Brian by following him, spreading the word, and donating here!