Lack of debate on local war claims bill questioned

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Guam's senators did not go back into the Committee of the Whole Wednesday to discuss the revised war reparations bill.
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Unanswered questions about the cost and source of funding for Speaker Tina Muna Barnes’ revised war claims bill failed to convince senators to reconsider their decision to send it to the voting file yesterday … without discussion.

Sen. Telo Taitague tried to bring Bill 181-35 back to the floor for discussion today, but her motion failed by a vote of 8 to 7.

As of news time the bill had not been voted on.

Last week, during a news conference at Adelup, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes was asked whether lawmakers would go back into the Committee of the Whole this week and pick up where they left off in August on her war claims legislation, Bill 181-35.

“We were in the Committee of the Whole, the bill did not get out of Committee. We are still in, so the process is work there,” the Speaker said when asked whether they will go into the Committee of the Whole during this session.

But Guam’s senators did not go back into the Committee of the Whole Wednesday to discuss the revised war reparations bill which lifted the prior funding cap of $7.5 million and authorizes war reparation payments to all adjudicated claims as of the date of passage.

“Madame Speaker are you voting to put this in the third reading without any discussion? And without any committee of the whole? Because we should be in the committee of the whole,” Sen. Therese Terlaje said.

But the Speaker replied: “You are out of order Sen. Terlaje. There is a motion on the floor, it’s not debatable.”

So without debate or discussion, senators voted 9 to 5 to advance a spending bill whose cost and source of funding is unclear.

Joining Sen. Terlaje in opposing the rush to advance the spending bill without debate were senators Louise Muna, James Moylan, Sabina Perez, and Telo Taitague.

“You know, the way she was conducting herself there was absolutely ludicrous and definitely not the sign of good leadership. At all, as a Speaker. Talk about impeaching Trump, they should impeach her,” Taitague said in an interview on NewsTalk K57.

When contacted for comment about the decision not to resume a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Chirag Bhojwani, the policy adviser for the Speaker, said Barnes never said the Committee of the Whole would resume consideration of Bill 181 this week.

Bhojwani explained that after the Speaker said “the bill did not get out of Committee, we are still in,” she went on to say that, “We rose out of the Committee of the Whole.”

He said that means they were done with the Committee of the Whole last August after making amendments.

Meanwhile, before the vote, Sen. Telo Taitague made a motion to take Bill 181-35 out of the voting file and bring it back to the floor for discussion. But that failed by a vote of 8 to 7.

Sen. Wil Castro, who voted to send the bill to the voting file yesterday, joined senators Moylan, Taitague, Muna, Terlaje, Perez, and Torres in a failed effort to bring it back to the floor for discussion today.

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