Guam’s delegate to Congress is the island’s voice in Washington D.C.
But what should that voice be saying?
PNC News spoke to some of the island’s legislative leadership to get their thoughts.
PNC News spoke with the Speaker of Guam’s 35th Legislature, the chairperson of the Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, and the leader of the Republican minority.
All three, naturally, pointed to federal assistance with the pandemic as the most important priority right now.
Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee, a Democrat, is chairperson of the Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs.
She says she hopes the next Congressman addresses Guam’s relationship with the military, environmental issues and the island’s political status.
“Next year will be really critical on Guam’s road to rebound from this pandemic for local leaders and our delegate to Washington. Our delegate can also influence the effects of the military buildup and the upcoming compacts of free association. This person will have the power to resolve long-standing issues like the past use of toxic chemicals and our political status as a colony, in addition to crucial resources for health, safety and education for Guam,” she said.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, also a Democrat, says she hopes the next Congressman addresses war claims for World War II survivors who were left out of the application process in 2016 and 2017.
She’d also like him to push for developing a transshipment industry on Guam.
She says that transshipment could bring more jobs to the island if certain federal regulations are lifted.
One concern she shares with Biscoe-Lee is the future of Guam’s political status.
“I think it’s important to realize that they made a commitment to the people of Guam to determine what their governance is going to be and how we should govern ourselves as an island people. And whether it be statehood, whether it be independence, whether it be free association with the United States, I think that commitment that was given to us over 70 years ago..that that should be followed through,” the Speaker said.
Senator Telo Taiague, leader of the Republican minority in the Legislature, also gave her perspective.
Issues that she’d like to see addressed include land takings, the Jones Act, and federal reimbursements to Guam for healthcare and other social services provided in support of citizens from compact communities.
She also shares with the Speaker and Senator Biscoe-Lee concerns about Guam’s political status and military-related environmental issues.
Senator Taitague says: “Looking long-term, our delegate must engage local leadership in establishing a stronger voice for Guam in Washington, D.C. Guam should be more than just a military base or military target for China and North Korea in the minds of leaders in Congress and The White House.”
She added: “Our delegate can and should do what is necessary – through regular congressional/White House visits, the participation of local leaders in federal meetings, etc. – to help Guam realize its place as a true member of the American family.”