The Puerto Rico Statehood Council has retained government relations firm Michael Best Strategies in an effort to resolve Puerto Rico’s territorial status.

Puerto Rico

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focuses on public policy and advocacy in support of admitting Puerto Rico into the United States Union. It has hired MBS to lobby Washington on “issues regarding Puerto Rico statehood legislation,” according to lobbying registration documents filed with Congress in March.

The retainer comes amid several recent developments in the years-long debate regarding whether or not to grant Puerto Rico statehood status, a move, supporters argue, which would give citizens of the U.S. territory voting representation in Congress, the ability to vote for President and equal access to federal programs as the territory continues to wrangle with a series of compounding crises, including the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria as well as its ongoing financial woes.

In March, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez (R-PR), introduced the “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act,” which would admit the island territory as a U.S. state. Similar versions of that bill have unsuccessfully been introduced in Congress for several years.

Another bill, the “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021,” introduced by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), would allow Puerto Rico to call a status convention of delegates elected by voters who would work to devise solutions for the island’s territorial status.

While Puerto Ricans remain divided on the issue, 52 percent of the territory’s residents in November voted in favor of a nonbinding referendum seeking statehood, authorizing Puerto Rico governor Pedro Pierluisi the ability to appoint a commission representing the territory in negotiations related to that goal.

Many Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), oppose the move—as well as similar recent attempts to recognize Washington D.C. as a state—which would give Democrats an electoral advantage.

MBS principal Alexander Angelson handles the Puerto Rico Statehood Council account. He previously served in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs as special assistant to President Trump. Prior to that, he was special assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Michael Best Strategies, which was founded in 2014, specializes in lobbying, government relations, public affairs and crisis management. The firm maintains offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Austin, Denver and Salt Lake City. Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is chairman of MBS’ board of advisors.