Congressman Faleomavaega announced that on May 18, 2005 the House Committee on Resources unanimously passed H.R. 837, the “Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Act.” H.R. 837 was introduced on February 17, 2005 and was referred to the Resources Committee. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, this legislation would establish a non-voting delegate for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
In 1975, the U.S. approved a covenant agreement to establish a commonwealth for a political union with the Northern Mariana Islands. This Covenant agreement did not take effect until November 4, 1986. Although the agreement allowed for an elected Resident Representative as an official representative to all departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, the Resident Representative is not recognized by the U.S. Congress.
“This is why H.R. 837 is such an important bill,” Faleomavaega said. “The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is the only U.S. Territory without any representation in Congress and this issue has been ongoing for the past thirty years. I have supported this bill for the past 17 years since I was elected to Congress and I am pleased that Chairman Pombo and Ranking Member Rahall, as well as all Republican and Democratic members of the Resources Committee, are working in a bipartisan manner to move this legislation forward.”
“As I recall, the matter of giving territories Congressional representation has historically been a concern for Congress. In the past, Members of Congress were apprehensive about what political parties would be represented rather than what the wishes of the people might be. This is demonstrated by the political ambitions that were shaped before territories achieved statehood.”
“For example, Congress was concerned that granting statehood for the Alaskan Territory would increase the number of seats for Democrats but today Alaska is represented by Republicans. On the other hand, Congress anticipated that Hawaii’s statehood would increase Republican seats. However, Hawaii has been predominantly a Democratic state.”
“The point is, there is no need for Congress to be apprehensive about which party will be represented. What matters is that the will of the people is represented. H.R. 837 does not support one party over the other. H.R. 837 simply provides our fellow islanders with an opportunity to voice their will in Congress.”
“Unfortunately, however, CNMI has received negative publicity in conjunction with recent events involving House Majority Leader Tom Delay and Mr. Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist who has done work for CNMI. While H.R. 837 is in no way associated with Majority Leader Delay’s trip or by Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying tactics that are currently being scrutinized by Congress, there is discussion that H.R. 837 may not move forward as a result of this on-going investigation.”
“When asked by reporters what I thought, I said that I am hopeful that CNMI will be treated fairly and that H.R. 837 will be allowed to move to the House floor for vote. I am hopeful that H.R. 837 will pass when voted on in both chambers and I will continue to work with my fellow colleagues to see its favorable passage.”
“I thank Chairman Pombo, Ranking Member Rahall, and Resource Committee Members, both Democrat and Republican, for supporting our Pacific Island community and for working to provide CNMI with a nonvoting delegate. At this time, I also send my very best wishes to the people of CNMI,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.