Congressman allowed to testify on Bill 181-35; San Nicolas says local war claims bill may hurt H.R. 1365’s chances in U.S. Senate

Senators of the 35th Guam Legislature voted to pass Substitute Bill No. 282-35 (LS) — the FY 2021 budget bill. (PNC file photo)

After protesting yesterday that he wasn’t allowed to testify on the local war claims bill, Congressman Michael San Nicolas was allowed to testify via telephone in today’s public hearing on Bill 181-35.

In his testimony, San Nicolas warned that if “new variables” are added at this time, his H.R. 1365 which is now before the U.S. Senate may be adversely affected.

“This changes the tenor of how everyone is perceiving things. If the local government begins making payments on work claims, it could signal to some members of the U.S. Senate that the local government is ready to fully absorb this liability and it could cause Senate Republicans or Democrats who is a fiscal conservative on the Senate side to basically raise the question all over again as to why are we entertaining this measure when the local government is willing to fund it,” San Nicolas said.

He said he’s “very confused” as to why on one hand, the Legislature would pass a resolution endorsing H.R. 1365 and would write letters endorsing it and then turn
suddenly turn around and ignore the warning that passing Bill 181-35 could actually put all that effort at risk.

“It’s an effort to create perceptions at the expense of reality,” San Nicolas said.

Sen Amanda Shelton, who co-sponsored a resolution expressing the Guam Legislature’s support for the congressman’s efforts to provide the necessary appropriation language to make war claim payments, said there was no record of San Nicolas submitting any testimony on Bill 181-35.

“This is the first time I’m hearing your views on this on the record and so I would like to reiterate that that Resolution 36-35 was a resolution we passed in support of both an administrative fix and a congressional fix so that was the position that this body took to support any way that we could bring resolution to this,” the senator said.

In response, the congressman said he has been very consistent about saying that H.R. 1365 is the best avenue forward for Guam’s war claims.

“I’m very consistent in saying we shouldn’t move anything forward on the local side unless we have it in writing from the federal government that the local effort that’s being proposed is something that’s going to be followed by the federal government because there’s nothing in writing even to this very day. There’s nothing in writing from the federal government saying that they’re going to follow through with a lot of the expectations of Bill 181-35,” San Nicolas said.

He added: “In all of the testimony so far on Bill 181-35, as far as I know, everyone is saying that for everything to come full circle and to work out, H.R. 1365 needs to pass. So why are we creating a new risk to H.R. 1365 by introducing Bill 181-35 that’s dependent on H.R. 1365?”