THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - Marianas Daughter now Colonel

Jan 12, 2018

In this issue: January 12, 2018


Marianas daughter now Colonel

Ms. Esther Camacho Sablan asked me to pin her with her new insignia as a full Colonel in the Air National Guard at a family ceremony on Thursday. To the best of my knowledge, Colonel Sablan is the first Northern Marianas female to achieve this high rank in the U.S. military, which requires Congressional approval. She is an inspiration to us all, especially to girls and younger women setting their goals in life. Look at her resume: First commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she received both her bachelor and master’s degrees in aeronautics and astronautics there. She has served on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat search and rescue helicopter pilot and, along the way, collected two more master’s degrees. Today, Colonel Sablan is at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, serving as Chief of the Force Planning and Strategic Basing Division. Congratulations, Colonel Sablan. I look forward to seeing you when you are next promoted.

2017 lookback: 400+ served

Constituents having a problem with the federal government come to their congressional office for help. And we work hard to solve their problems. In 2017, my colleagues and I helped with more than 400 individual cases. Immigration issues were most frequent; 134 constituents had problems we helped fix. Getting Social Security benefits and documentation was a problem for 84 constituents; and 46 veterans had concerns with the services they are entitled to receive. We also helped 58 young people with their Selective Service registration, which is required for college financial aid. The congressional staff on Saipan, Tinian and Rota can all accept requests for help. Making services easily available to constituents on each island was a goal I set when I was first began serving in 2009; and all three offices remain busy. But even though we are busy, we are never too busy to take a new case. So, if you have a problem with the federal government, come in to see us. We work for you.

Increase the caps, DHS

The Department of Homeland Security ignored the Marianas, when the caps for CW permits were announced in November. I wanted a cut of one—like the Obama administration had been doing. But DHS cut 3,000 for this year and another 5,000 for next. Still, the department’s announcement did leave the door open for reconsideration. So, this week I asked Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to reset the caps—to 12,998 for 2018 and 12,997 for 2019. Of course, the department’s drastic cuts reflect the Trump administration goal to restrict immigration and leave jobs open for American workers. In our case, that does not make sense. Half our workforce is foreign. Losing them would shrink the economy and cause Americans to lose their jobs. DHS also said the cuts were needed because the CW program ends in 2019. In my letter, I let the Secretary know that in Congress we are working toward legislation that will make sure there is sufficient labor for the economy beyond 2019, so the cuts are premature, as well as harmful.

Pacific reps work on compact impact

The Marianas and other U.S. insular areas should not be saddled with the costs of U.S. foreign policy. That is why I joined my colleague Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) and Hawai’i representatives Colleen Hanabusa (D) and Tulsi Gabbard (D) this week to introduce the Compact Impact Relief Act. H.R. 4761 provides additional resources to our jurisdictions to pay for health care, education, and other services used by citizens of the Freely Associated States, who can live and work in our islands or wherever they want in the United States. As the only Micronesian in Congress, I also want to be sure that our fellow Micronesians from the FSM, Palau, and the Marshall Islands know that they are welcome in the U.S. Pacific Islands and not looked on as a burden. H.R. 4761 also requires an assessment of the expiration of the three FAS compacts in 2023.

NRDC says thanks on fishery stance

The Natural Resources Defense Council, on behalf of “3 million members and activists” and “countless citizens who rely on healthy oceans,” sent me a letter this week backing my opposition to a rewrite of the Magnuson-Stevens fishery law. I voted against the bill during committee mark-up, because it will both increase the risk of overfishing and also delay the rebuilding of already overfished stocks. National Geographic Magazine did a good article recently on how the bill would undermine the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has long been the gold standard for good environmental stewardship. It is worth a read. The bill also gives more power to regional councils, such as WESPAC, which can favor commercial interests over traditional fishing.

Ninth Circuit civics contest opens

High school students, the 2018 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is now open with cash prizes and a chance to travel to California. Submit your essay or video focused on how Congress and the federal courts have applied the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to the field of education—“The 14th Amendment 150 Years After Ratification: What Does Equal Protection Mean to Students?” Winners in the essay and video competitions each receive $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third place. First-place winners will also be invited to attend the 2018 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Anaheim, California. For more information, contact Amanda Hayes at the The U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, (670) 237-1230 or Contest rules and additional details are available at Entries will be accepted beginning February 1, 2018. The final deadline for submission is April 1, 2018. 

Comment sought for Tinian WWII sites

The U.S. Air Force is soliciting public comments as they prepare the development of an Interpretive Plan for World War II historic features of West Field in Tinian, north of the airport. The Programmatic Agreement between the Air Force, CNMI Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation requires the Air Force to resolve adverse effects to historic properties that may result from the undertaking of the Divert field project. The purpose of the Interpretive Plan is to create interpretive materials chronicling West Field and the military units previously stationed there including the 58th Bombardment Wing, 6th Naval Construction Brigade, 49th Naval Construction Regiment, and 29th Naval Construction Regiment. Materials will document and interpret extant historic features of West Field for the public. The comment period will close on February 9, 2018. Comments may be sent via email to, or by mail to:

25 E Street, Suite C-200
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI 96853

The FY18 National Defense Authorization Act includes $12.9 million for the Air Force divert airfield project on Tinian. Together with $9 million authorized in the FY17 NDAA, a total of $21.9 million will be used to lease 142 hectares on the north side of Tinian airport needed for the project.

Legislative Highlights


On the Floor

  • S. 139 – Rapid DNA Act of 2017 / FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (Passed, 256-164)
  • S. 140 – To amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010 to clarify the use of amounts in the WMAT Settlement Fund (Passed, 239-173)
  • H.R. 4577 – Domestic Explosives Detection Canine Capacity Building Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 1486 – Securing American Non-Profit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4578 – Counter Terrorist Network Act (Passed, 410-2)
  • H.R. 4567 – DHS Overseas Personnel Enhancement Act of 2017 (Passed, 415-0) 
  • H.R. 4561 – SAFE TECH Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4559 – Global Aviation System Security Reform Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 3202 – Cyber Vulnerability Disclosure Reporting Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4569 – Counterterrorism Information Sharing Improvement Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4555 – DHS Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4564 – Post-Caliphate Threat Assessment Act of 2017 (Passed, 413-0)
  • H.R. 4581 – Screening and Vetting Passenger Exchange Act of 2017 (Passed, 415-1)
  • H.R. 4433 – Securing DHS Firearms Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.Res. 676 – Supporting the rights of the people of Iran to free expression, condemning the Iranian regime for its crackdown on legitimate protests, and for other purposes (Passed, 415-2)
  • H.R. 535 – Taiwan Travel Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 3320 – To direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, and for other purposes (Agreed to by voice vote)

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R. 4761 – To address the challenges of providing public services to citizens of the Freely Associated States residing in the United States, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 219 – Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project Boundary Correction Act


On the Floor

  • H.R. 2954 – Home Mortgage Disclosure Adjustment Act
  • H.R. 3326 – World Bank Accountability Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4712 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Committee Activity

Wednesday, January 17

  • Committee on Veterans' Affairs Oversight Hearing on The Denver Replacement Medical Center: Light at the End of the Tunnel?”
  • Committee on Natural Resources Markup
  • Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4506, Jobs for Tribes Act