WASHINGTON REPORT: Congressional Mood Will Bring Austerity to Territories


Guam – There’s more evidence Washington is serious about austerity measures that could crimp territorial budgets even further.

Top Senate appropriator and Hawaii Democrat, Daniel Inouye announced he will enforce a 2-year ban on earmarks for member pet projects, in all Senate spending bills.

The Senate moratorium follows a similar ban by the House GOP majority and a veto threat by President Obama in his State of the Union Address.

And it signals a political shift by Democrats, who until last week, dismissed the moves as GOP posturing or an “applause line” by the President.

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo suggested after the State of the Union, Obama’s veto threat was nothing new. “This is pretty much a pledge he made when he was running for President. At the very start of his presidency, he made comments that he wasn’t going to accept anything from congress, that was a major earmark.”

The Senate last year scuttled more than 6-thousand member projects, including nine Bordallo sought worth almost $10-million dollars.

CNMI Congressman Greg Kilili Sablan lost out on some $2-million in earmarks including money for a Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitors Center. “My heart’s broken that we would be worried about $8-billion dollars of projects for congressional districts and the several states…and the Republicans objected to that.”

Boradallo complained the GOP was undermining Congress’s constitutional authority to set funding priorities. Senate spending Chair Inouye had long argued Congress has a Constitutional imperative to direct spending.

But even the Hawaii Democrat and long-time friend of the Pacific Territories said this week, “The handwriting is clearly on the wall…given the reality before us.”

A bi-partisan Senate bill would shrink Federal spending on all government programs to a smaller percentage of the economy, amid record Federal deficits and a $14-trillion dollar total debt.

Obama will release his budget request mid-month and Congress must act this spring to fund the rest of this fiscal year and to raise the federal borrowing ceiling.