In case Puerto Ricans want to know where they stand, SCOTUS just gave them a surprising answer.
The Supreme Court ruled 8 – 1 that residents of Puerto Rico are not entitled to Supplemental Security Insurance disability benefits.
But now the real shocker. The Biden Administration excluded Puerto Rico from this benefit, agreeing with the decades old decision not to include the territory.
The decision means that an estimated 300,000 people on the Caribbean island cannot receive the benefit. The federal government said an expansion to Puerto Rico would have cost $2 billion a year.
The court held in an opinion by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh that the actions of Congress were valid under a provision in the Constitution that lets lawmakers treat territories differently than states. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, was the sole dissenter.
That’s right. The Obama-appointed Affirmative Action Justice Sotomayor couldn’t care less about the rules regarding territories. After all, the decision was PERSONAL!
The article continues, explaining how this lawsuit arose.
A provision extending SSI benefits to Puerto Rico is part of Democratic-backed social spending legislation that has stalled in Congress.
Puerto Rico resident Jose Luis Vaello-Madero, who is 67 years old and disabled, received SSI benefits when he lived in New York but lost eligibility when he moved to Puerto Rico in 2013. The U.S. government sued Vaello-Madero in federal court in Washington in 2017 seeking more than $28,000 for SSI payments he received after moving to Puerto Rico.
A lower court ruled that Puerto Rico’s SSI exclusion violated the Constitution’s equal protection mandate, prompting the government’s appeal.
Justice Kavanaugh explained the decision as it applies to Territories:
“In devising tax and benefits programs, it is reasonable for Congress to take account of the general balance of benefits to and burdens on the residents of Puerto Rico.”
Thus, “in doing so, Congress need not conduct a dollar-to-dollar comparison of how its tax and benefits programs apply in the States as compared to the Territories, either at the individual or collective level.”
In her lone dissent, Sotomayor commented:
“Equal treatment of citizens should not be left to the vagaries of the political process.”
“Because residents of Puerto Rico do not have voting representation in Congress, they cannot rely on their elected representatives to remedy the punishing disparities suffered by citizen residents of Puerto Rico under Congress’ unequal treatment,” she said.
Understand that as a Territory, residents of the island of Puerto Rico are excluded from many of the same federal taxes as those in the 50 states pay; for example, federal income tax.
Biden is fine with this decision, because Puerto Ricans hold no real political power as a group. Oh the irony when you consider all that Mexican (and others) get when they illegally enter the U.S.
CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck explains how this case has far-reaching implications.
Particularly when juxtaposed by the southern border issues exacerbated by Biden. Vladeck said, the case is “a big deal both for what it holds and for what it opens the door to.”
“The core holding is that Congress is allowed to withhold certain federal benefits from Americans who live in territories like Puerto Rico so long as it has any rational basis for doing so and that no special justification is required,” he said. “That makes it far easier for Congress, a body in which the territories are not represented, to treat residents of those territories differently from those who live in the states – not just for Supplemental Security Income, but for all federal benefit programs, like Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements funded at least in part by taxes paid by those living in those territories.”
Puerto Rico even tried to pull the race card:
Hermann Ferré, a lawyer for Vaello-Madero, said the program was meant to replace “an uneven patchwork of programs” for the disabled with a “uniform standard of national support” so that poor and disabled Americans could live with dignity.
“But that guarantee is not enjoyed by all Americans,” he said, arguing the court should look at the elimination suspiciously because it excludes Puerto Ricans based on their race.
The Biden administration had defended the exclusion, noting that most Puerto Ricans are exempt from federal taxes, so Congress could take into consideration that reduced contribution when excluding them from some disability benefits. A government lawyer stressed that it would be up to Congress to extend the benefits, and President Joe Biden has already called on Congress to do so.
“It is always appropriate for Congress to take account of the general balance of benefits and burdens associated with a particular federal program,” Deputy Solicitor General Curtis Gannon told the justices at oral arguments.
Clearly, Puerto Ricans have some work to do to get even with the illegal Mexicans Joe Biden happily allows into America. With only 300,000 votes at stake, PR has a PR problem.
Also, in planning their fight, I suggest they understand that the protected group of mostly Mexican illegals enjoys benefits more than most Americans. Good luck!