Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Congressman Michael San Nicolas traded sharp views Tuesday afternoon during a very public and testy debate over war reparations.
The two democrats have engaged in often petulant exchanges on various issues since the November election last year.
Their rocky relationship was on full display in the large conference room at Adelup which was packed with an overwhelming number of members of the administration and the island’s media.
Thursday’s “public meeting” began with an invitation from San Nicolas to the media to attend what was originally meant to be a closed door meeting.
The governor upped the ante by inviting members of her administration to witness the contest.
It began calmly enough with the governor thanking the congressman for accepting her invitation “to work together on these war reparations … I think we need to be united on it.”
Leon Guerrero said San Nicolas has her “full support” for his war claims corrections bill, H.R. 1365, which remains under consideration by the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee after it was passed by the House of Representatives in July.
She asked San Nicolas for his co-operation in “making sure that your bill is passed and our bill here is also passed.”
“So your still wanting to move forward with 181?” asked San Nicolas.
“Absolutely,” said the governor.
Bill #181-35 is Speaker Tina Muna Barnes’ measure which would establish a war claims fund and provide the governor with the authority to transfer up to $7.5 million into it in order to compensate at least some of the island’s Manamko whose claims have already been adjudicated. However the source of funding for Barnes’ bill has not yet been identified.
“That’s a problem,” responded San Nicolas. “I made it very clear that 181 is going to create consternation inside the House and the Senate if we’re trying to move a local measure that is going to be sending mixed signals with 1365.”
“We’ll I totally don’t agree with that,” said the governor. “My impression is that it has little impact or risk at all.”
And so it went. Back and forth for about a half hour during a debate that focused on the two rival war reparation bills only.
Each stood their ground and no agreement was reached.
Afterwards, Speaker Barnes expressed her disappointment.
“181, I’m going to continue to ask for it,” said Barnes.
“Every day we have one of our survivors that are dying. They have no more time. It has been over 75 years,” she said.