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Vice President-elect Mike Pence did not discuss Puerto Rico during the campaign, but he did make a statement on the subject in 2010 during congressional debate when he served as Republican Conference Chair in the House of Representatives.
Pence began by noting that “[a]s a conservative who believes in the power of self-determination and of individual liberty,” he believes that the people of Puerto Rico “should be able to voice their opinions about Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States, although the ultimate determination of that fate rests with this Congress[.]”
He added that he was “pleased to stand in a long line of Republicans who have taken that view,” pointing out that “[e]very Republican President for the last 50 years has been committed to self-determination and democracy for the American citizens in Puerto Rico.”
In his remarks, the future Vice President singled out former President Ronald Reagan, a strong supporter of statehood, by noting: “In 1982, President Ronald Reagan said, ‘Puerto Ricans have borne the responsibilities of U.S. citizenship with honor and courage for more than 64 years. They have fought beside us for decades and have worked beside us for generations.’ He also added Puerto Rico’s ‘strong tradition of democracy provides leadership and stability’ in the Caribbean. I agree.”
Pence did not take a position on statehood, but he did advocate for for self-determination.
“If the American citizens of Puerto Rico choose independence, I will support that vote,” Pence said. “If the American citizens of Puerto Rico choose statehood, I will support that vote.”
Pence expressed confidence that Congress would be able to sort out questions about taxation and other issues that might arise on the path to statehood.
“The American citizens of Puerto Rico have fought, have bled, and have died in our military, on virtually every continent, in order to spread democracy and the right of self-determination,” Pence affirmed. “It seems to me it would be the height of hypocrisy for this Congress to deny the very same rights for which Americans have fought all over this world to the American citizens of Puerto Rico.”
“For me, for President Ronald Reagan, and for all freedom-loving Americans,” Pence concluded, “I believe with all of my heart the time has come … to begin the process of allowing the American citizens of Puerto Rico to determine what will be their destiny, and we will determine it as well.”
Click here for Vice President-Elect Pence’s full remarks, as found on page H3036 of the Congressional Record from April 29, 2010.