New Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi expects Congress to introduce a bill in support of granting the island statehood by next month, he told Axios.
Pierluisi, who campaigned on statehood, told the outlet that "Congress is morally obligated to respond" to a recent voter referendum in support of statehood.
"We need a game-changer in Puerto Rico. And one game-changer would be that we get equal treatment in key federal programs," he said.
He noted that programs like Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit are not available to residents of the territory.
"Statehood is not a panacea," Pierluisi said. "Of course we have to do better. But there's no question that having two senators and four representatives in Congress batting for us when needed would make a difference."
Growing support for statehood:
Statehood has been a divisive issue among Puerto Ricans, who have voted on numerous referendums with varying results.
After several split votes, support for statehood grew to 52.5% in the referendum last year while 47.5% voted in opposition.
Congress is not obligated to respond to the referendum but there is a growing push within the party to vote on statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington DC while Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Republicans have opposed Puerto Rican statehood, arguing that it would help Democrats even though many of the island’s elected officials are Republican.
Pierluisi predicted that it would have a “mixed” congressional delegation that “would probably lean Democratic.”
Advocates hope that Democrats can move on statehood for both DC and Puerto Rico this term.
"I don't want to compete with D.C. I'm all for D.C. statehood," Pierluisi said. "So I just want the star [on the American flag]. I don't care about the number. So long as it happens and it happens soon, I'll be more than pleased."