Washington D.C. – In a surprise development, CNMI Congressman Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan has become the top minority member on the most important House panel for the territories.
Sablan, an independent, who caucuses with democrats, and in only his second-term, ascended to the ranking slot on House Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, as the result of a series of committee changes.
Long-time California democrat Jane Harman resigned at the end of February to take over the helm of the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Center—a Washington think tank.
That freed up a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee for current Natural Resources’ Iinsular ranking member Virgin Islands Delegate Donna Christensen, who was on the Energy & Commerce Committee in the last Congress, and just missed the cut-off this congress, to get back on.
Energy and Commerce is considered an “exclusive committee,” meaning members can only serve on that panel, forcing Christensen to give up her seat on Resources and top slot on the insular subcommittee.
That set off a Natural Resources Democratic caucus meeting, where full panel ranking democrat Ed Markey asked that Sablan—next ranking after Christensen—be elected to succeed her.
The caucus agreed on Sablan, by unanimous consent.
The Iinsular panel—the most important for the islands—had been Chaired by Guam’s Madeleine Bordallo—last Congress, but she is now the ranking member on the Armed Services Readiness subcommittee, and by rules, Bordallo can not hold two ranking posts.
Sablan in a written statement called his ascending, a “remarkable opportunity” to represent the people of the Northern Marianas. But he will effectively, be a voice for all the islands.
Sablan has already met with Subcommittee Chair, Republican John Fleming of Louisiana, to discuss federal immigration and other CNMI-related issues.
Fleming was a military doctor in Guam in the nineties, when he says he delivered “many babies.”
Sablan says now that he’s been picked to lead the panel’s democrats, he’ll work to build his relationship with Fleming to address concerns of the CNMI and all the insular areas.