U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop said on Friday he supports the government of Puerto Rico’s efforts to introduce bipartisan legislation in Congress to grant full statehood to the U.S. commonwealth territory. “I am supportive of statehood. I think it is a solution that is long overdue,” Bishop, a Republican from Utah, said during a visit to the island that was broadcast over the internet. Puerto Rico is still in the throes of recovering from September’s devastating spate of hurricanes that killed dozens and completely knocked out power, deepening the economic woes for the island’s 3.4 million U.S. citizens. Many of them have decamped for the mainland United States in search of jobs and social services.
Bishop’s committee has overseen the process, well before the hurricanes, of addressing Puerto Rico’s financial insolvency. It declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history one year ago when it said it could not service its $120 billion in debt and pension obligations.
Committee aides gave no firm timetable for holding a hearing on Puerto Rico statehood much less advancing statehood legislation. The last time the United States gained a state was in 1959 when Hawaii became the 50th state.