Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said Tuesday that there’s a simple way to solve the D.C. statehood conflict that’s been roiling in the city for decades: Unless D.C.’s land is retro-ceded to Virginia or Maryland, District residents should not be required to pay federal taxes.
“You can lessen the challenge by exempting people living in the District from federal taxation, which I think makes sense,” Norquist said at an event at the National Press Club. “And for the record: I was for that before I moved to the District.”
His comments came at an event hosted by the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, which announced that it will launch a “comprehensive effort to encourage conservatives across the country to support statehood for Puerto Rico,” in the wake of November’s referendum vote that indicated majority support for changing the current commonwealth status and also majority support for a statehood push.
Conservative panelists at the event, including former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, former San Juan Mayor Hernan Padilla and Herman Cain adviser Niger Innis, called on President Barack Obama to work with Congress to make it a priority to grant Puerto Rico statehood, saying Puerto Rico’s status as a territory goes against the “most basic principles of our founding.”
Panelists at the event said that the Founding Fathers would be appalled that the almost 4 million residents of Puerto Rico are considered American citizens but do not possess the same democratic rights as Americans who live in one of the 50 states, such as voting for their president and receiving the proportional representation in Congress that residents of the 50 states have.
Fortuno, who served as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Congress from 2005 to 2009, said that Puerto Rico’s citizens live under “separate, but so-called equal conditions.”
Puerto Ricans have been American citizens since 1917 and approved the current commonwealth form of government by referendum in 1952.
Fortuno spoke about his time in Congress, when he would watch his colleagues from the 50 states head to the House floor for votes, a right he was not afforded as a nonvoting delegate.
“The bells would ring and everyone would get up to vote, and there I was,” Fortuno said. “The laws that were being approved that day would apply fully to the American citizens of Puerto Rico, yet I could not vote up or down on those bills.”
But when asked whether he supported D.C. statehood — the 600,000 residents of which also do not have a voting member of Congress — Fortuno declined to give his stance, saying the two statehood issues are too different to compare.
“The D.C. situation is quite different from the territory situation in the sense that the Founding Fathers intended for there to be a federal district,” Fortuno said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.