No war claims MOU and no action on H.R. 1365, yet

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

After signing the local war claims measure into law Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said she was confident that a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Treasury Department would be completed and returned to her office by last week.

That didn’t happen.

The governor signed the local war claims measure, Bill 181-35 into Public Law 35-61, during a ceremony at Adelup on Friday January 3.

The MOU is needed to allow the process of paying war claims to some 1,400 Manåmko to get underway.

“The governor had hoped that it would be completed” by last week acknowledged her Chief of Staff Tony Babauta. “It’s still in progress on their side,” he said.

Babauta told the Pacific News Center in a phone interview on Friday that they spoke “with Treasury several times” last week and “exchanged communications” with them.

“We’re still waiting to hear back from them on their final review of the MOU,” he said.

“We remain confident,” said Babauta. “Absolutely.”

During his Congressional address last Monday, Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas called on lawmakers to repeal the local legislation saying it  “is not going to succeed” and it would interfere with passage of his federal war claims corrections bill, H.R. 1365, which is facing delays of its own.

That measure has not yet been acted on by the U.S. Senate, despite San Nicolas’ hope that it might have been voted on before the Christmas break.

H.R. 1365 is meant to correct former delegate Madeleine Bordallo’s omission of a clause in her World War II Loyalty Recognition Act that would have authorized the Treasury Department to release the checks already awarded to some 1,400 Guam manåmko by the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.

Last Wednesday, San Nicolas warned of further delays in a statement to the media saying he had received word that a new objection had been raised to H.R. 1365 following the governor’s decision to sign Bill 181 into law.

He declined to say who raised the objection or what the specific nature of the objection was, saying in a texted message: “We don’t want to single anyone out it may complicate things further.”

Babauta on Friday told the Pacific News Center that he was unaware of any new objection raised by any member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We have been in communication with their staff and no one has shared that there has been any objection to moving 1365 under unanimous consent in the Senate,” he said.

During the Jan. 3 signing ceremony of the local war claims bill, the governor said about $14 million in local funds is available to pay war claims under the local war claims bill. Treasury has another $23 million in Guam’s own Section 30 funds tied up waiting to be released.

“I’m targeting the end of January to issue the first check,” said the governor.