Bipartisan bill seeks to make Puerto Rico the 51st US state by 2021

A bipartisan bill introduced on Wednesday seeks to make the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico the nation’s 51st state.

Filed by Rep. Jennifer González-Colón (R), Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner and non-voting representative in Congress, the bill lays out a plan to enable the territory to become a state by January 2021. 

“This is the first step to open a serious discussion to determine the ultimate political status of Puerto Rico,” González said, per NBC News. “To sum everything up, this is about equality.”

The move has been described as Puerto Rico’s “biggest push for statehood” in many years. Fourteen Democrats and 20 Republicans have backed the bill thus far; however, it remains unclear what odds the legislation has of passing.

Several lawmakers supporting the bill said the federal government’s response to Puerto Rico’s devastation following Hurricane Maria highlighted the territory’s need for statehood.

RELATED: Puerto Rico braces for Hurricane Season

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Puerto Rico braces for Hurricane Season
Jose Alvarez, 60, uses a head lamp while walking in the dark as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico May 10, 2018. Picture taken May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A horse eats from the hand of a young man while being illuminated by a flashlight as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 12, 2018. Picture taken May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Cancer patient Israel Gonzalez, 84, poses for a photograph with the light of a solar lamp at his home as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Residents of La Chorrera neighbourhood carry an electricity pole as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Residents of La Central neighbourhood wash clothes in the river as the island is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 13, 2018. Picture taken May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Contractors of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers install an electricity pole as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Jannet Rodriguez, 40, stands on the porch of her house with solar lamps attached to the railings, as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A house illuminated with the help of a generator is seen in the dark as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico May 10, 2018. Picture taken May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Food is seen on a kitchen counter in a house without electricity, as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
The license plate of a jeep of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority (PREPA) reads "Puerto Rico, Island of Enchantment" as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 16, 2018. Picture taken May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A cat sits next to a generator in a house without electricity as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 12, 2018. Picture taken May 12 , 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Workers of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority (PREPA) repair part of the electrical grid as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Wilson Reyes, 44, uses a solar lamp while walking in the dark as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Alexis Massol sits in a cinema that uses solar energy, as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. The writing on the screen reads "Bankruptcy." Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Jannet Rodriguez (R), 44, uses a solar lamp while talking to her daughter Keimiliz, as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A house illuminated with the help of a generator is seen in the dark as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Gladys Lugo, 67, sits in a wheelchair as a solar lamp illuminates the entrance of her home as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico May 10, 2018. Picture taken May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A cat sits next to electrical cables connected to a generator, as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 13, 2018. Picture taken May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A resident of La Chorrera neighbourhood tries to fix an electrical grid as the island's fragile power system is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria eight months ago, in Utuado, Puerto Rico May 11, 2018. Picture taken May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
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“The hard truth is that Puerto Rico’s lack of political power allows Washington to treat Puerto Rico like an afterthought, as the federal government’s inadequate preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria made crystal clear,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) told NBC News.

Nine months after the hurricane first hit the region, “millions in federal dollars for [post-Maria] reconstruction have yet to be allocated,” The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

To this day, thousands of Puerto Rican residents remain without power.

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898 when it was acquired following the Spanish-American War. Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they can’t vote in presidential elections and don’t have a congressional representative with full voting powers.

González said her new bill calls for the creation of a bipartisan, nine-member task force to look into what measures need to be changed to allow Puerto Rico to be incorporated as a state. 

“No longer do we want ambiguity. No longer do we want this kicked down the road,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who’s fiercely advocated for statehood in the past, said at a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “In Congress, you’re either with us or you’re against the people of Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Ricans have been divided on the issue of statehood for decades. In the last referendum on the issue, 97 percent of those who voted supported statehood. According to NBC News, the opposition party boycotted the plebiscite, and only 23 percent of registered voters ended up casting ballots.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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