War claims corrections bill clears House; now goes to President Trump for final approval

The denial of voting rights in US territories is now finally under scrutiny in a hearing to be held before the US Congress Tuesday.

Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas’ war claims correction bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Monday afternoon in Washington D.C., just after 6 am Tuesday here on Guam.

H.R. 1365 will now be sent on to the White House for President Trump’s final approval.

HEAR Congressman San Nicolas’ remarks on H.R. 1365 on the floor of the House floor HERE:  https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4860023/user-clip-hr-1365-final

The measure first cleared the House last June by unanimous consent. It then went on to the Senate where it languished for months, delayed in part by the Trump impeachment trial. The Senate passed it on February 12 by unanimous consent as well.

However, because the Senate added a minor technical amendment, H.R. 1365 had to go back to the House again for approval of the amended version of the bill.

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Congressman San Nicolas had hoped it would come to the floor when Congress reconvened on Feb 25. However, it’s taken another two weeks to come up again for consideration.

San Nicolas had to introduce H.R. 1365 in Jan 2019 in order to correct what former delegate Madeleine Bordallo and her staff left out of her World War Two Loyalty Recognition Act.

The correction, finally, will authorize the U.S. Treasury Department to actually issue checks to the adjudicated war claims already awarded to the island’s manåmko using Guam’s own section 30 funds, $23 million of which is now being held by the U.S. treasury department for claim payments.

READ Congressman San Nicolas’ remarks to the House in FULL prior to passage of H.R. 1365:

Congressman San Nicolas:

“At the risk of sounding melodramatic, today is a very historic day.  Particularly in the relationship between the United States and the people of Guam.

More specifically the Chamorro people of Guam, a generation in particular that endured the suffering during World War II.

I was here Mr. Speaker about 8 months ago when I first brought H.R. 1365 to the floor of this House after securing unanimous consent in the Committee on Natural Resources and after bringing this measure to this floor eight months ago, and also securing unanimous consent H.R. 1365 made its way to the Senate.

And, in going through the Senate, it was able to receive the necessary unanimous support ad receive a very minor change that brings us to this floor today.

H.R. 1365 technically is making what would appear to be a minor change to language that was already enacted in 2010 NDAA. But in my short time as a freshman member of this House I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a simple technicality.

I’ve learned that the mere addition of a few words, or the subtraction of a few words can make all the difference between the gravity of the hurdles that you need to overcome in order to be able to enact legislation.

And I’ve learned that the language contained in H.R. 1365 while technical in nature is incredibly significant with respect to what it means for the members of this House to consider.

In our process Mr. Speaker legislation that has certain language triggers certain events.  H.R. 1365 is intended to allow for money that has been set aside to actually be paid out to the Chamorros who suffered under the brutality of Imperial Japan during World War II.

This was a process that was initiated over many decades and has finally come to a place where we now just await the ability to just cut the checks. But it is in the ability to cut those checks that language actually gets very, very complicated and it causes certain things to be reconsidered.

The language in H.R. 1365 would in effect create what we know as a ‘scoring’ hearing in this Congress, meaning that there may be an expenditure that the body would need to consider. And the actual funding source of H.R. 1365 was a set aside of monies that was already due to Guam and it’s been set aside over the past several years, with the money accumulating and being ready to be paid out to these war survivors.

The reason why the United States is assuming this obligation Mr. Speaker is because at the end of World War II the United States absolved Japan of their obligations in order to be able to move the entire world forward after the conclusion of the war.

And in so doing they also just so happened to absolve them of their obligation to make whole the war crimes that were endured by the Chamorro people who suffered because they were inhabiting the United States Territory of Guam at the time.

The people suffered beheading, forced marches, rapes, the loss of their infants in their arms. And it’s taken us now going on 76 years to finally come to this point.

And I say that this is historic Mr. Speaker because it in a large respect represents almost an original sin in terms of the inability for us to reconcile our territorial relationships in a manner that really makes for plain and simple justice.

And I’m deeply moved Mr. Speaker to be able to handle these proceedings today and to be able to see 1365 come before this House once more because as we all know in this current political environment almost any hurdle that legislation faces is a hurdle too much.

And so as we’ve gone through this process and we’ve gotten to this point there were many times that I was deeply concerned as to whether or not something technical was going to actually be dead on arrival.

But by the grace of God Mr. Speaker the small territory of Guam has been able to garner the unanimous support of this House, the unanimous support of the Senate. And we’re here again today addressing a matter that really triggers certain concerns, but really has gotten us to a point where we’re really able to see that there are some things that are bigger than the nuances of language, the semantics of procedure.

And so it is with a deep sense of pride that I stand here as a member of this House, non-voting delegate that I am, because I can stand here and witness to the fact that at some point in time justice really does find its way in the United States of America.

I urge my colleagues to please support this measure. We’re this close. We’re just a hairline away.

And in passing this House this measure will then go before the President for signature and we can finally make whole a generation that suffered because they were loyal to America.”

READ the U.S. House Clerk’s report on the proceedings below:

4:14:13 PM H.R. 1365 DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on the motion to suspend the rules and agree to the Senate amendment to H.R. 1365.

4:13:50 PM H.R. 1365 Mr. San Nicolas moved that the House suspend the rules and agree to the Senate amendment.

4:12:19 PM H.R. 2877 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

4:12:16 PM H.R. 2877 On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote.