Guam – The fate of a federal spending bill that includes millions for the CNMI and other US islands remains uncertain, as US lawmakers fight over automatic budget cuts, and display of the Confederate flag.
House Republicans pulled the FY ’16 interior spending bill from floor consideration recently, after it became clear the bill couldn’t pass with a controversial rider dealing with the Confederate flag. Congressman Greg Kilili Sablan says the GOP needs to re-work the bill. “It is a part of the history, but it is a symbol of racism…and it has no place in public places,” said Sablan.
But that’s not all that’s holding up interior appropriations for the territories. “Sequestration applies to everything…that’s unfortunate,” said Sablan. Much is at stake for the islands, including millions in Covenant construction help, Compact Aid to help with FAS migrants and technical aid. Some items could change, if Democrats delay single spending bills and force a ‘kitchen-sink’ catch-all bill known as an ‘omnibus.’
Millions in mandatory aid might remain unchanged. The NMI, Guam, Hawaii and American Samoa receive $30 million in total Compact Aid each year but appropriators reversed White House-proposed cuts to discretionary Compact aid, under prodding by Guam’s Madeleine Bordallo and Sablan, keeping funding levels with this fiscal year. Covenant Aid for construction projects continues to be funded at mandatory levels. Separately, the Interior bill includes funding for park feasibility studies and President Obama has requested a Rota National Park study be funded as part of a list of pending studies.
Sablan tried, but failed on the House floor to boost by $5 million dollars technical aid for the US islands. Republicans opposed that increase.