Tuesday, February 17, 2009

331. Kilili's First Bills: H.R. 934 and H.R. 935

Our new delegate, Gregoria (Kilili) Sablan, has introduced his first two bills into the US Congress. I'm very glad they are simple, direct, needed and fair pieces of legislation.

The 3-mile EEZ proposal (H.R. 934) would put the CNMI on par with most other coastal states. The CNMI has turned down the 3-mile EEZ before, when litigating for the entire 200 mile EEZ. Kilili's statements in support are more humble than the CNMI's prior stances. I'm glad to see him saying we need to get something, and then we need to join other coastal states and argue that all of us should have larger areas of control.

The proposal (H.R. 935) to increase the number of CNMI nominations to service academies is also modest--to give the CNMI and America Samoa the same rights as other states.

I like these two bills. I like that they are designed to align us with the rest of the states and territories. I like that they address issues of fairness and equality. I like that they introduce us as reasonable, responsible, and careful--not strident, not reckless, not seeking political ends as much as due consideration and fair treatment.

I also like that Kilili is working with others. He's started building the natural alliances, the easy alliances with Guam and American Samoa. He's taking small steps, in the right direction.

To me, this is a good way to start, a good way to approach the awesome power and responsibility of being part of the U.S. House of Representatives.


Lil' Hammerhead said...

This is part of why I supported Kilili.. not because I agreed with every single one of his ideas.. I didn't. But he has always seemed a conscientious and reasonable person.. who's willing to talk.

Saipan Writer said...

and listen?

I didn't like today's headlines--that Kilili says federalization will be postponed if Fitial asks...

I hope he's wrong about that.

Pragmatic Plato said...

I think he was merely stating that the Governor needs to request the extension that is permissible under the existing law.

I think the report may have taken it out of context a bit. I don't think he is saying that Fitial's word carries so much force that any request from his mouth will be honored by the feds (the way the article made it sound to me).

I believe the law itself lists officials that this extension and other requests regarding the law (i.e. Visa Waiver countries) should come directly from and the Governor of the CNMI is listed as one of those officials.

Interesting to note is that our Congressman is not listed as one of the officials who should make requests regarding extensions and other facets of the law.

The one thing that most people are forgetting (Kilili included) is that the Congressman for the CNMI position did not exist before this law was passed, therefor his position would not have been listed. It is my opinion that his voice carries just as much weight (if not a bit more) than our Governors when dealing with Federal matters and legislation.


"I wish I were Lil' Hammerhead!"

cactus said...

I was not a big fan of this whole delegate concept, because I thought it would result in the CNMI being constantly lumped together with the territories in the federal mind, even more so than it already is. I grimaced at the sight of the CNMI flag being hoisted side by side with the territorial flags at some congressional ceremony a couple of weeks ago. And now we have draft legislation again subtly encouraging this idea to "treat us like the other territories."

I have nothing against the basic substance of either bill (on the contrary, I agree that something needs to be done about the submerged lands issue), but something about their "humble" tone, or their underlying assumptions, only adds to my apprehension that ANY delegate, however well-intentioned, will end up getting co-opted by the system, as we are pulled further and further into the political dead end that Guam and the other territories currenty occupy.

Saipan Writer said...

Interesting point of view, Cactus.

I think there is a strong pull toward the center, the already known when it comes to how the American Congress will deal with the CNMI.

It's hard to keep a separate identity in a very big place. And it probably wouldn't be that effective.

I wouldn't be pushing for that separateness, but I can understand your desire for it. The original intent of the Covenant was to create a unique relationship.

I think you're right that, to some extent, that unique relationship is slipping away.

I disagree with your characterization of the territories as being "political dead ends."

What do you see as open road politically speaking that the CNMI is losing by having a delegate? by being "lumped" with the territories? (Please don't mention immigration control--the eventual US control of CNMI immigration was expressly envisioned by the Covenant framers. Something else?)

cactus said...

Territories are the ultimate political dead ends. For the last fifty years, the experience of the territories has been: a) they never become states; b) they never become independent; c) they obtain no voting representation in the federal government; c) they make no advancements in political rights or status; and d) they remain under the plenary power of Congress. There are, of course, various legal, constitutional, and sociological reasons for this, but if the result is not a political dead end, what is?

We don't necessarily lose anything by having a delegate. On the contrary, the position could be used very positively, to help bring the territories up to our status, and then to progress further together. At the very least, it could be used defensively, to block any steps backward (like the enormous one we are now in the process of taking). But to do either requires having a clear vision of, and full confidence in, our own unique status. We are not going to accomplish anything for anyone if we declare ourselves a dog, and join the pack begging for bones.

Saipan Writer said...


50 years is a short time in the history of nations. A better measure of territorial status, imho, is a look at the entire history of the US.

a) Almost all of the US states were originally territories. Territorial status can still lead to statehood. This is not foreclosed by any law.

b) the Philippines was a US territory that became independent.

c) they/we can obtain voting representation with luck and the right political will: for e.g., the residents of DC can now vote in federal elections (a change that has occurred even within your 50 year framework). This is an area where I think we could make the most progress (and an area where we NEED progress);

c-2) I'm not sure what advancements in political rights or status you want to measure, but there have been some changes and improvements in this regards--extension of SSI benefits for example, sharing in the funding pools for education and health on a more equitable basis, possibly other things I'm unaware of.

and d) the CNMI is not under the plenary power of Congress, but is subject to Congress' power exercised through the Covenant. This, I think, is an issue in all discussions of CNMI-US relations--exactly what are the limits the Covenant places on that plenary power and how different is that from other territories.

cactus said...

I agree with you on (d). That is the very point that is blurred the more we act like a territory and associate ourselves with the territories, and it is a point that it ill behooves us to blur.

As for the others, I agree that other options are not impossible, but I think they are extremely unlikely as a practical matter. In particular, a constitutional amendment affording federal representation without statehood would require a level of political will (and, more basically, a level of interest in the subject) that I do not foresee Congress or the states ever mustering. It took 172years before even DC got a vote for president, and even they still don't vote for Congress.

So I think we had better make the most, rather than the least, of the unique status we have got.

(Then again, what the hell do I know? I get mixed up just getting from (a) to (e)!)