Guam – In her annual Congressional Address Tuesday evening Guam Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo called for unity of purpose and a common approach to the federal government, in the face of Washington’s budget realities.
In a speech entitled “A Family Discussion at Our Kitchen Table” Bordallo reviewed her priorities, and accomplishments in Washington, and spoke of the challenges facing the island in the years ahead.
The Congresswoman began her speech by saying she wanted to have a “frank discussion, within our Guam family” about the many “federal issues and challenges that we face.”
She turned first to the blunt budget realities in Washington D.C. “Gone are the days when Congress could write a blank check for a federal program or Members could earmark money for pet projects in their districts.” Guam, as well as the Nation, are in “a state of transition” declared Bordallo.
The Congresswoman frequently referred to her speech as a discussion amongst family members, hoping to convince her audience to unite behind a set of common priorities which she defined as war reparations, the buildup and a Chinese visa waiver among other issues.
Her speech was full of quotes from Guam leaders of the past as the Congresswoman sought to link her policies, to the positions adopted by the Governors and members of Congress who came before her.
“I did that on purpose,” said Bordallo, near the end of her speech saying “there is a thread that runs through the fabric of our leadership from the first elected Governor to the first elected Congressman to Governor Calvo and myself in how we approach the federal government.”
Unity will not be easy in an election year. Bordallo has already declared her intention to run for a 6th term in office. She is facing a declared challenge from Republican Frank Blas Jr., and a possible challenge from within her own party from former Democratic Governor Carl Gutierrez.
Moving onto to the military buildup, the Congresswoman declared that “the U.S. needs Guam’s help again.” The buildup is being down-sized and she reviewed the revisions now underway to the 2006 Roadmap to Realignment.
“The key revision will be a reduction in the estimated number of U.S. Marine Corps forces that will be relocated from Okinawa. What
was once anticipated to be a build-up involving approximately 8,600 Marines and some 9,000 dependents is now expected to be about 5,000 Marines and far fewer dependents.”
“It seems clear” said Bordallo from the recent statements by President Obama and the budget requests made by the Department of Defense that the Administration remains committed to the buildup. However, she cautioned that “it will be in our own interest to present a unified ‘One Guam’ front going forward.”
“It’s time to get on with military build-up,” she declared. The current pause should be viewed “as an opportunity to advance our interests and do this build-up right.”
But at the same time she warned that Guam can not “afford to look like we’ve thrown every unmet local need into the basket. Not in these tight budget times,” adding that “in an age of austerity we must be realistic about what we can expect from the defense budget.”
CHINA VISA WAIVER:
The Congresswoman cited progress on the issue of tourism, pointing to the Russia visa waiver Guam has received. But she said “the real goal is to expand our market to Chinese tourists.” And she expressed optimism that “President Obama’s call for a 40% increase this year in tourists from China and Brazil will help make our case for parole authority here on Guam.”
War reparations remains a “top legislative priority” said Bordallo but “unfortunately, last year … the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, suffered a setback when it was not added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill.”
The War Reparations Bill has passed the House 5 times, only to be defeated in the Senate where “certain fiscally conservative Senators were the obstacle … Fiscal conservatives objected to the legislation on the basis of its cost and they objected to the rationale that the United States should pay this cost in 2012… nothing seemed to satisfy the concerns of fiscal conservatives.”
“It is important that we seek ways to address the underlying inadequacies of the Compacts of Free Association and work to lessen the burden on Guam and other affected jurisdictions.”
And in direct response to Guam GOP Senator Frank Blas Jr., her rival in the upcoming election Bordallo said: “It is extremely unlikely that Congress will ever appropriate $400 to $500 million for Guam’s Compact-Impact costs. First of all, the money is not there. Secondly, our view that we are owed a reimbursement is not shared by Congressional leaders.”
The solution to the problem, suggested Bordallo lies in the kinds of approach suggested by Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, which she supports.
Inouye, she said, has called on “the Freely Associated State’s governments to do more in the area of providing health care and education to their own citizens so that there is not such a great demand for these services on Guam.
“For our island family to succeed we must also continue to ardently promote our Chamorro culture and work to protect our unique environment so that the resources we enjoy today are available to future generations.”
“I also remain committed to working with the Obama Administration, Governor Calvo, the Guam Legislature, and leaders in our community to resolve the longstanding issue of Guam’s political status through a legitimate act of political self-determination.”
“I am aware that there are controversial issues regarding the nature of the plebiscite vote and I would prefer we resolve these issues as a family rather than relying on a decision from a federal court.”