Marianas Variety — INTRODUCING legislation to address the CNMI’s labor and immigration woes will be the priority of U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan when the 115th Congress convenes in the nation’s capital on Jan. 3, 2017.
Aside from re-introducing the proposal to increase the numerical cap of CW permits, he will also push for the extension of the program beyond 2019, Kilili said in a press conference on Friday at his Susupe field office.
Kilili, Ind.-MP, said he will need to again approach the members who supported his bill, H.R. 6401, which passed the U.S. House by unanimous consent early this month, but did not make it in the U.S. Senate which adjourned on Dec. 10 without acting on the measure.
In the 115th U.S. House, Kilili said he would only have to talk to key members in order to get the same level of support he got from the 114th U.S. House.
He said he was fortunate that U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-MD, agreed to pass H.R. 6401 by unanimous consent.
“I need to go back and see those leaders again and seek their help and hope that we get it passed as soon as possible so the Senate can address the issue,” Kilili said.
His bill proposed to increase the number of CW permits from 12,998 to 15,000 for fiscal year 2017 and was co-sponsored by U.S. Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa.
Radewagen wrote Kilili a letter on Thursday reiterating her support for H.R. 6401.
“We have worked very well together over the course of the 114th Congress and I always welcome the opportunity to support your legislative efforts when I am able, and you have consistently reciprocated by supporting my legislation as well. Although H.R. 6401 did not pass in the Senate…I certainly will continue to support your efforts to expand the economy of the Marianas. I am confident that we will continue to work together to make life better for the people of American Samoa, the Marianas and other territories,” Radewagen told Kilili.
Of the more than 200 pieces of legislation, the U.S. Senate addressed only 74 before it adjourned last week, Kilili said.
“Our legislation had a little issue with the [U.S. Senate] judiciary committee so we are going to…find out what the issue was. It could be also because there may have been some lobbyists who are not happy with the legislation….”
He said the new version of H.R. 6401 that he will introduce in the 115th Congress will contain some slight changes.
For example, instead of saying “shall not exceed 15,000’’ which may give room for a lower number, Kilili will change the language into “shall be 15,000” with the intent to make it neither lower nor higher than that number.
“We are setting ourselves up right now. We’re going to probably introduce two pieces of legislation. The urgent one is the one that did not pass the Senate. We will introduce that probably on the first day we’re in session and try to get it to the Senate as soon as possible,” Kilili said.
The second bill he plans to push next year, he said, “is tailored toward 2019.”
But, he added, “we may want to wait and see [first] what the report is regarding the 902 consultations.”
Kilili said he wants to know if the 902 talks between CNMI and U.S. officials could make a difference.
“If not, we will go ahead and introduce the legislation toward continuing the CW program past 2019,” he said.