(KGTV) - Puerto Rico's non-voting Congressional representative has introduced a bill that would grant the U.S. territory statehood by 2021.
Puerto Rico's resident commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez said Wednesday that 14 Democrats and 20 Republicans currently sponsor the U.S. House bill, according to the Associated Press.
"This is the first step to open a serious discussion regarding the ultimate status for the island," Gonzalez said.
The bill, called the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018, specifically calls for a report of laws that would need to be amended or repealed in order for the territory to become a state.
The panel would also recommend economic measures to help the island transition to a state.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has supported Puerto Rico statehood in the past, said on Twitter, "I support the right of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico to seek admission to the union as a state. I will continue working on our strategy of building support in the Senate and creating the condition necessary to achieve the 60 votes needed for success."
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) June 27, 2018
Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898. While its residents are technically U.S. citizens, they are not able to vote in presidential elections.
The country has one Congressional representative with limited voting powers.
This ambiguity, according to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, has led to residents leaving to the U.S., especially after Hurricane Maria last September.
"In the past this issue has been very hard to move forward," Rossello said, the AP reported. "No longer do we want ambiguity. We want clarity. Either here in Congress you are with us or you are against the people of Puerto Rico."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.