U.S. Workforce Act passes Congress

Jul 1, 2018

It’s done! The U.S. Senate passed the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act at 7:35 p.m. on Thursday night. Now the Act goes to the President for signature into law. It was a photo finish in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office e-mailed at 7 p.m. “it won’t clear tonight.” But we scrambled to identify which senator had a problem and resolved it in time to get unanimous consent for passage 35 minutes later.

It has never been easy. In late 2016, we began discussions in Congress about what to do after 2019, when the immigration transition period ended. “Our Members will never agree to any extension” was the starting point for those talks. But we listened to everyone’s point of view. Senators Murkowski and Cantwell and I enlisted the Government Accountability Office to report on the necessity of foreign workers for the Marianas’ economy. And we succeeded in getting agreement on a short-term measure, the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act, Public Law 115-53, in 2017. That built confidence and brought a bicameral, bipartisan working group up-to-speed on the issues involved. Then, the group went to work on drafting the U.S. Workforce Act.