THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - January 03, 2020

Jan 6, 2020

In this is issue:

·     2019: The Year in Review

·     DPS Carolers share holiday cheer

·     Opportunities

  • Legislative highlights

Goals set for 116th Congress

As Congress convened with Democrats again in the majority I set our goals for the coming year:

·     A special appropriation for recovery from typhoons Yutu and Mangkhut. 

·     Permanent status for those overlooked when Congress extended federal control of immigration to our islands in 2008.

·     More money for Medicaid to replace $109 million from Obamacare, now almost gone.

More food stamp funding, as the $31.5 million I added to the 2014 Agricultural Act is used up helping Marianas families who lost income after the typhoons.

Marianas gains leadership

The House Natural Resources Committee named me Vice Chair for Insular Affairs. I quickly used this new authority to hold a hearing on the Trump administration decision to end humanitarian parole for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and other long-time Marianas residents and on my legislation to reverse that policy. Also, in February, the Education and Labor Committee elected me to chair the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee. I am responsible for all national policy dealing with education from infancy through the high school level, as well as for career and technical education. 

State-share for Marianas in LWCF

A long-sought goal to get a state-share for the Marianas from the Land and Water Conservation Fund became a reality with enactment of the John J. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. Funding for the Marianas will go from $75,000 per year to upwards of $800,000 to be used for public parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and beach areas around our islands.

$8.2m for Medicaid

Super Typhoon Yutu caused an unexpected speed-up in Medicaid spending, so I immediately began working with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to plug the gap. In April, CMS agreed to make $8.2 million more available for the 15,000 people in the Marianas who use Medicaid. 

Lower college costs for NMC grads

Graduates of Northern Marianas College would get a substantial break on tuition when getting a bachelor’s degree off-island through the College Access Act, which I introduced in May. H.R. 2465 covers the difference between resident and nonresident tuition at any public university in the United States for NMC graduates.

$129.6m in Marianas set-asides

House Democrats passed a disaster aid bill for the Marianas and other communities struck by natural disaster in 2018 and 2019, after repeated attempts by Republicans to block the bill. The President, who had also stood in the way of passage, signed it. I was able to include special set-asides for the Marianas worth $129.6 million and made sure we are eligible for tens of millions more in recovery grants for schools, Head Start, community health centers, roads, and economic revitalization. Using the amendment process I added $36 million for Marianas Medicaid and $25.2 million for food stamps—also my first two floor votes in the 116th Congress. Behind-the-scenes negotiations yielded $56 million for solid waste and $10.4 million for water and sewer infrastructure. Another $2 million is included to help the Marianas manage the influx of federal money. The congressional office will be following up with all federal agencies that manage the aid programs to make sure funding gets to the Marianas as quickly as possible.

Up to 1,039 saved from deportation

President Trump signed my bill giving Marianas-only permanent resident status to as many as 1,039 people. These include over 800 spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, 50 in-home caregivers, 5 persons born in the Marianas before the Covenant citizenship provisions went into effect, and persons who had been given permanent resident status under Commonwealth law in the early 1980s. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service immediately announced humanitarian parole would be extended for all persons in the Marianas covered, while a process is set up to apply for the new permanent residence status that U.S. Public Law 116-24 created.

GI Bill for prep courses passes

The House okayed use of the GI Bill for preparatory courses for professional license and certification exams. The text of my bill, H.R. 2934, giving veterans and eligible family members this new flexibility was made part of H.R. 3504 and passed the House unanimously. Allowing the GI Bill to cover these courses is one more way to help veterans enter in-demand careers in health, technology, and other fields that require government-recognized licenses and certifications.  

3,000 CW permits for recovery

As it became clear a lack of workers was slowing down recovery efforts, I introduced legislation to make 3,000 new CW permits available to help with typhoon reconstruction over the next three years. Current federal law prohibits using CW permits for construction workers. The new workers would not count against caps on the number of CW permits already set by statute or be allowed to compete with U.S. workers for jobs. In December, my bill, H.R. 4479, was enacted in the FY20 appropriations package, Public Law 116-94.

Shark fin bill passes House: 310-107

Following the example of the Marianas and 14 other U.S. states and territories, the U.S. House of Representatives approved my legislation banning buying or selling shark fins nationwide. I introduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737, in January and collected 287 cosponsors, the largest number for an ocean conservation bill in this Congress. Fins from an estimated 73 million sharks are sliced off and sold in the global marketplace each year. And, largely due to this demand for fins, some shark species have now declined by more than 90 percent.

$120m for Medicaid, 3,000 disaster recovery workers

We achieved the goal of avoiding a Medicaid “cliff” with appropriation of $120 million for the Marianas over the next two years in the end-of-the-year spending bill, Public Law 116-94. The local Medicaid match requirement, currently 45 percent, is reduced to just 17 percent, better than for any state. The end of the year spending bill, PL 116-94, also included my legislation making 3,000 more CW permits available for disaster recovery over the next three years. Education funding got a three percent boost that should put the fiscal 2020 Title I grant for the Marianas over $12 million. Also up is funding for the Marianas Head Start program, which should exceed $4 million this year. And Congress increased the Child Care and Development Block Grant bringing Marianas funding to over $5 million, more than double what the program was receiving just three years ago. The effort I led for more energy funding for the insular areas resulted in $6.25 million and a requirement to use the money as Congress intended in Public Law 113-235: to move to sustainable production sources in the insular areas and lower the cost of electricity.

OPPORTUNITIES

Scholarships/Fellowships

·     President Harry S. Truman Scholarship (Due 2/24/20)

·     Senator Barry Goldwater Scholarship (Due 1/31/20) 

·     President James Madison Fellowship (Due 3/1/20)

·     Pacific Territory Fishery Capacity-Building

·     APAICS Congressional Fellowship

Grants

·     Conservation Collaboration grants

·     ReConnect Pilot Program

Jobs

·     Supervisory Transportation Security Officer

·     CBP Technician

·     Mission Support Specialist

Public Comments

·     Survival of Endangered Species

·     Tax Form 5074

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.

NEXT WEEK

·     H.R. 5130 - Capturing All Small Businesses Act of 2019

·     H.R. 5065 - Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act

  • H.R. 4500 - Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act of 2019, as amended