Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is enduring criticism inside his caucus for a string of election losses under his leadership, is unlikely to gain a majority in the chamber this year. But that isn’t stopping the Brooklynite from advancing statehood legislation that would welcome Puerto Rico and Upstate New York as the 51st and 52nd States of the Union.
Schumer is not expected to pursue statehood for the District of Columbia in the bill, which is a far less popular and more politically polarizing proposition — seen as a crass political power grab that offensively privileges the already well represented citizens of the District who amply benefit from the federal government’s economic largess.
On the other hand, there is strong bipartisan support nationally for Puerto Rican statehood and the Republican Party believes that it can compete for votes on the island — particularly among men — despite the longtime reputation of the community being aligned closely with the Democratic Party, at least with regard to Puerto Rican politics in New York.
Schumer has not been previously known to support statehood for Upstate New York, which has always endured problematic governance issues that stem from its geographic alienation from the vast majority of the population located inside and around New York City.
The area of New York north of Westchester and Rockland Counties, if it were a State, would include ten congressional districts and about six million people, twelve electoral votes, and a midwestern constituency far more archetypal of Michigan, Wisconsin, or Ohio than of New England. It would be a narrowly divided swing state — perhaps even more comfortable for moderate Democrats like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand.
Pairing statehood votes for Upstate New York and Puerto Rico might be the masterful political stroke that Schumer’s flailing leadership tenure needs.
It could also be an opportunity to placate an angry leftwing of the party inside New York City that seems to feel perpetually wronged by the federal government without rational basis for those unrelenting political assertions.
If Senator Gillibrand were essentially ‘redistricted’ to represent Upstate New York, political observers postulate that Schumer would be able to take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or another progressive voice under his proverbial wing in the Senate.
Schumer’s statehood legislation is being heralded by the Puerto Rican community, which now sees two inspired roadways to the White House — one that runs through the island and the other that runs through the Bronx.