THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - April 13, 2018

Apr 16, 2018

In this issue: 

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Trump admin announces CW lottery

After needlessly cutting next year’s CW cap in half, the Trump administration added insult to injury this week by confirming it would issue the permits by lottery, instead of on a first-come-first-served basis. Marianas businesses that made every effort to get their applications to the California Service Center on opening day now have no extra advantage. Applications received after today, April 13, will be rejected. I made a third attempt to get the Department of Homeland Security to take a wait-and-see approach to rejecting applications given the progress we have made in Congress on the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, H.R. 4869 and S.2325. The bill is ready for passage by the Senate. And I have worked to prepare for fast action, when the House receives the bill, much as we did last year with the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act, U.S. Public Law 115-53. The U.S. Workforce Act is the result of 18 months of bipartisan, bicameral collaboration in Congress and consultation with the Executive branch. Ignoring the Workforce Act, as the Trump administration is doing, makes no sense and threatens the economy of the Marianas.     

 

Voting rights = human rights

Four decades after voting overwhelmingly for the Covenant of Political Union with the United States, the people of the Marianas enjoy the benefit of tens of millions of dollars in federal support each year, as well as the priceless benefit of U.S. citizenship. Yet our citizenship is flawed; because, if we choose to live in the Marianas, we cannot vote for President and have no voting representation in Congress. For that reason, I have joined an amicus brief in support of a case brought by former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Rosselló v. United States argues that by denying U.S. citizens, like us, voting representation in the federal government, the United States is violating its international law obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Declaration and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Read my complete op-ed on why I joined Rosselló.

 

VA clinic feasibility study approved

Appropriators included my requirement that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study the feasibility of establishing health clinics in remote and underserved areas—such as the Marianas—in the FY18 omnibus spending package signed by the President on March 23. The study will evaluate existing health care services in any area of the U.S. where a veteran must travel by air or sea to reach a full service VA health facility. Information gained will provide a clear picture of the obstacles our veterans face in accessing earned health care benefits. The effort is another step towards my goal of having a full-time VA clinic in the Marianas to serve our veterans.

Slow spending means no new food stamp funds

House Republicans introduced their five-year “farm bill” on Thursday and, as expected, the CNMI’s slow spending of food stamp funds blocked efforts to keep Marianas funding at $20.6 million annually. According to the Agriculture Department, the Commonwealth has $22.5 million unspent, not counting the $12.148 million in last month’s FY18 Omnibus Appropriation. Republicans were unwilling to extend funding with that large backlog. On Wednesday, I introduced a revision of H.R. 4216, my bill that would continue enhanced food stamp funding through FY23. The new bill, H.R. 5478, provides funding only when the Marianas’ available balance is below $8.5 million. This week, also, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus endorsed H.R. 4216 in a comprehensive letter on the farm bill to Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas, to no avail. I put $32.5 million for Marianas food stamps into the 2014 farm bill and I do not want to miss the opportunity of a new farm bill to continue that funding. My goal is simply to get food aid to more Marianas families and to increase their monthly benefits. Spending the $22.5 million now on hand would help those families and also make reauthorization of the extra funds I got in 2014 more likely.

$287k to DPW for Soudelor roadwork

Congratulations to the CNMI Department of Public Works, which is receiving $287,087 in discretionary Emergency Relief Program funds, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday. Funds will pay for repair of Federal-aid highways in Saipan that were damaged by Typhoon Soudelor in August 2015. Administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Emergency Relief funds are awarded after a disaster has been declared and the affected area files a request for Emergency Relief for the cost of damages to its eligible highways. Eligible repair work includes emergency repairs needed to restore traffic, minimize the extent of damage, or to restore the highway to its pre-disaster condition.

OPPORTUNITIES 

Education:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS 

THIS WEEK

On the Floor

  • H.J.Res.2 – Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Failed, 233-184)
  • H.R. 4790 – Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act (Passed, 300-104)
  • H.R. 4293 – Stress Test Improvement Act of 2017 (Passed, 245-174)
  • H.R. 4061 – Financial Stability Oversight Council Improvement Act of 2017 (Passed, 297-121)
  • H.R. 4921 – STB Information Security Improvement Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4925 – FRA Safety Data Improvement Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4203 – Combat Online Predators Act (Passed, 409-2)
  • H.R. 2219 – End Banking for Human Traffickers Act of 2018 (Passed, 408-2)
  • H.Res. 128 – Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia (Agreed to by voice vote)

Legislation I Sponsored

  • H.R.5478 – To amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 to make funds available for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands pilot project for fiscal years 2019 through 2023

NEXT WEEK

On the Floor

  • H.R. 5192 – Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act
  • H.R. 5444 – Taxpayer First Act
  • H.R. 5445 – 21st Century IRS Act
  • H.R. 3607 – To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish fees for medical services provided in units of the National Park System, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 4403 – Moving Americans Privacy Protection Act
  • H.R. 5443 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require electronic filing of the annual returns of exempt organizations and provide for making such returns available for public inspection
  • H.R. 5437 – To require the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a program for the issuance of identity protection personal identification numbers
  • H.R. 5446 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to restrict the immediate sale of seized property by the Secretary to perishable goods
  • H.R. 1512 – Social Security Child Protection Act of 2018
  • H.R. 5439 – To provide for a single point of contact at the Internal Revenue Service for the taxpayers who are victims of tax-related identity theft
  • H.R. 2901 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent Volunteer Income Tax Assistance matching grant program
  • H.R. 5438 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow officers and employees of the Department of the Treasury to provide to taxpayers information regarding low-income taxpayer clinics
  • S. 167 – National Memorial to Fallen Educators Act

Committee Activity

Tuesday, April 17

  • Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “Fraud, Mismanagement, Non-Compliance, and Safety: The History of Failures of the Corporation for National and Community Service”
  • Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Legislative Hearing

Wednesday, April 18

  • Committee on Natural Resources Legislative Markup