This bit of breaking news caught by Tristan Justice at The Federalist slipped under the radar a bit yesterday — Dem. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has flip-flopped back on his earlier announced support for statehood for Puerto Rico.
During a community Zoom meeting Thursday, Schumer said he now opposes Puerto Rican statehood. “I don’t agree with them, I’m not going to support their statehood bill,” Schumer said of legislation from Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres that would open the door to Puerto Rico becoming a state.
The motives behind this announcement are likely multidimensional. It was in the heat of the firestorm over the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and subsequent nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to take her place that left-wing fanatics in the Democrat party began demanding that leaders in the House and Senate agree to pass statehood for Puerto Rico and DC, and expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court in order to eliminate the Court’s conservative majority.
Flash back to four months ago, however, and Schumer held the opposite position. “Believe me, on D.C. and Puerto Rico, particularly if Puerto Rico votes for it — D.C. already has voted for it and wants it — I’d love to make them states,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Joy Reid in October.
Puerto Rico is such a lock to be a deep blue state that @SenSchumer just reneged on his promise to advance statehood, citing a tax haven law enabled by a tax provision *that he voted for* pic.twitter.com/zbIGBfJ6RI
— Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) February 19, 2021
Such a move would create four new Senate seats that the Democrats would presumably win, giving them a 54-50 outright majority in the Senate until 2022. With a slim majority in the House, the Democrat could then push through an expansion of the Supreme Court from nine Justices to however many the Democrats desired. All the newly created seats would be for Joe Biden to fill with nominees, and with the Democrat majority in the Senate standing by to confirm them.
Among Schumer’s motives for changing his view may simply be that he recognizes as Senate Majority Leader that such a naked play for an outright majority in the Senate, done when the Democrats already have functional control of the Senate with VP Harris’ tie-breaking 51st vote, would enrage the GOP members and make defeating any GOP incumbent in a purple or red state nearly impossible to accomplish in 2022. At the same time, it could put in jeopardy the re-election prospects of Democrat incumbents in purple states in 2022.
But the politics of the issue might strike a bit closer to home at the same time. Rumors persist that AOC harbors an intention to run against him for his seat — his next election is in 2022.
I do not profess to be an expert on New York politics, especially on the Democrat side. But I have read once or twice that the trick to getting elected statewide in New York is to not assume that you can win the race in New York City alone.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — shouldn’t she shamed by the fact her family name is the same as a Spanish Conquistador, a colonizer of Central and South American, and a subjugator of indigenous peoples? but I digress — is of Puerto Rican ethnicity on both sides of her family, with her mother having been born in Puerto Rico. She represents a heavily Latino congressional district centered in the Bronx in New York City. There are over 700,000 residents in New York City of Puerto Rican heritage. There is likely no issue that Chuck Schumer could advance legislatively that would assist him in separating AOC from her natural Puerto Rican constituency in the New York electorate.
But, he could have all to himself the “anti-statehood” position with respect to Puerto Rico to the extent one exists in the Democrat party.
It is far from a given that all factions of the Democrat Party wish to see AOC elevated within the state party — or the national party — by having her ride the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico to a victory over Chuck Schumer. Did Schumer signal his opposition in an effort to lure AOC into taking the bait by hopping on the issue as part of any campaign now being planned? I presume Schumer’s campaign pros have already polled that issue in other parts of the state, understanding that holding her off will require significant margins of victory among Democrat voters outside the New York Metro area.
This will be a fascinating race to watch if it actually develops — I’m dubious. The New York primary elections normally take place in June prior to the November general election. In many New York races, the primary election is the real contest for the seat, as the winner of the Democrat primary is often a shoo-in for election in the general. That is probably true of Schumer’s Senate seat.
So that contest will be won or lost in the next 14 months. AOC’s campaign will have to be mounted and waged in that short window of time if Schumer is to be taken down. In that same time span, both will be occupied trying to take advantage of having a majority in both the House and Senate to advance an agenda of progressive policy initiatives. The requires that there be some clash between the two in order for AOC to make the case for why she should replace him — and for Schumer to make the opposite case for why it would be a mistake for New York Democrats to choose her to replace him.
This one calls for another run to Costco for popcorn.