||Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that since the Senate passed S. 2009 on December 16, 2011, he has worked to move the bill forward by clearing all obstacles in the House so that a vote can take place.
“As I explained in my previous release, S. 2009 included two other provisions besides minimum wage,” Faleomavaega said. “One issue is the monitoring of Runit Island and the other is clarifying the temporary assignment of judges to courts of the Freely Associated States.”
“Because these provisions were included along with our minimum wage provision, S. 2009 was referred to three different committees in the House – the Committee on Foreign Affairs which has jurisdiction for matters involving our Compact agreement with the Marshall Islands; and in addition the Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction for matters involving courts and judges; and the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has jurisdiction for minimum wage. The House Parliamentarian determined that the Committee on Foreign Affairs would be the lead Committee that would decide whether or not the bill moves forward.”
“S. 2009 was not referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources which is the counterpart to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of which Senator Bingaman is the Chairman. So, although Senator Bingaman introduced the bill in the Senate with the support of Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, the bill was not referred to their counterpart Committee in the House which has jurisdiction for Territorial issues.”
“This means that the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs also did not have jurisdiction for the bill, even though the bill was titled the Insular Areas Act and Chairman Fleming was so helpful in holding a hearing on the GAO report at my request.”
“Despite this unexpected set of circumstances in the House, I had every hope that the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committees on the Judiciary, Education and the Workforce would support our cause, and also the Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am a Member. This is why I have worked aggressively to get each Committee to clear the bill for the House floor, and I am pleased to report that, as of yesterday (Thursday, December 22) my office has been successful in these efforts.”
“Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Conyers of the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Kline and Ranking Member George Miller of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Berman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs have all accepted my request to let the bill move to the House floor.”
“Out of respect for Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey of the Committee on Natural Resources, it was important for me and also Chairman Ros-Lehtinen to have their support even though the bill was not referred to their Committee. I am deeply appreciative that Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey agreed to support us when they just as easily could have petitioned the Parliamentarian to refer it to their Committee, too.”
“One other hurdle we also had to clear was a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate. Because of the federal deficit, we had to make sure this bill complies with no new spending without an offset. The CBO estimate, which was provided to my office yesterday, indicated that there is no direct spending, and discretionary spending is minimal, which makes our bill in compliance.”
“Chairman Ros-Lehtinen’s office and I have now informed Speaker Boehner’s office that we have successfully met the requirements of the CBO, and that all Chairmen and Ranking Members of jurisdiction have cleared the bill for the Floor, and that Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey have also signed off. With the support of the Speaker’s Office and our Democratic leadership, it is my hope that this bill will be brought to the House floor for consideration when we return in January 2012, or soon thereafter.”
“I thank Speaker Boehner for the kindness his office has shown us during this process, and I also thank Senate Majority Harry Reid for bringing S. 2009 to the Senate Floor so that it could be passed by UC. I also thank Senator Bingaman for offering S. 2009 since the best way forward was to have the bill first offered in the Senate. I also thank Senator Lisa Murkowski, as well as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Senator Inouye who is always a friend to us.”
“Once more, I also thank my colleagues in the House and their staff for helping us to successfully overcome all the obstacles that faced us when the bill came from the Senate to the House. I especially thank Chairman Ros-Lehtinen of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Ranking Member Howard Berman. Without their support and all other Chairmen and Ranking Members mentioned, it would not be possible to get this bill to the House floor and signed into law.”
“Finally, I want to thank StarKist for standing with American Samoa through our difficult times. Mr. In-soo Cho, President and CEO of StarKist, called this week to thank me for the support StarKist has received from my office since the time Dongwon purchased the company in 2008. Together, we are committed to revitalizing American Samoa’s tuna industry.”
“At the same time, I remain hopeful that ASG will put a plan of action in place to diversify our local economy based on the recommendations of the American Samoa Economic Development Commission because I do not believe suppressing wages in American Samoa is the right long-term solution for our Territory. I am only supporting a temporary delay in minimum wage hikes until such time as ASG can implement its plan, and three years should be enough time. S. 2009 will delay wage increases until 2015 and, after this time, it is my sincere hope that our local economy will be able to absorb future increases.”
“As we now break for the holidays, I thank the Governor, Fono and the people of American Samoa for their support and prayers, and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. When Congress resumes in 2012, I will provide additional information as further progress is made,” Faleomavaega concluded.