Congress is likely to respond to Puerto Rico's vote in favor of statehood with stony silence, and is not expected to undertake any effort to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.
Puerto Rico's vote to seek statehood with the United States seems historic on its face, since the island territory had never formally approved such a referendum. But congressional staffers said the numbers behind the vote, plus the related political circumstances under which it occurred, mean few in Congress are expected to see any pressing need to pass legislation related to the island's status.
But the ballot did not include other non-statehood options, and hundreds of thousands of voters left blank their preferred choice. CNN reported this week that this flaw in the vote could mean that the option of statehood might still garner less than 50 percent of the vote, and could be near the 46 to 48 percent level of support that has been seen in past votes.
Republican and Democratic staffers in the House told The Hill this week that they are fully aware of these details, which is why the vote is not being seen in Congress as reason to start considering legislation for Puerto Rico's statehood. One House aide said the 61 percent vote in favor of statehood is seem by some in Congress as a "statistical fiction."
Another House aide said some in Congress see the mandate for statehood as being significantly weakened because some believe it was only raised in an effort by Fortuno to draw more voters into the voting booths to help save his own reelection. This aide said that perception hurts Puerto Rico's case, since it makes the vote look like an attempt to engineer the outcome of the governor's race, rather than a sincere attempt to seek statehood.
"As a strategy, it failed miserably," this aide added, given that Fortuno lost his race anyway.