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House committee blocks war claims

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Guam's quest for war reparations suffered yet another blow in the nation's capitol as the Republican-controlled House Committee on Rules prevented H.R. 44, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, from being added as an amendment to FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Rules Committee issues rules for debate on legislation, and they control which amendments can be considered on the floor and which cannot be considered. House Republicans issued a structured rule for debate over H.R. 1540 that limited consideration of amendments to those approved by the House Rules Committee without further amendment.  Republican leadership had earlier indicated that the bill would be brought up under an open rule which would allow all filed amendments to be considered by the House. Congresswoman Bordallo testified before the Rules Committee yesterday to request that her amendment be considered during debate on the NDAA on the House floor.  However, despite the support of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith for Guam War Claims, after a closed door meeting of the Rules Committee, H.R. 44 was not among those amendments ruled in order for debate, thus prohibiting it from having an up or down vote on the floor.

Congresswoman Bordallo today spoke in opposition to the structured rule (H. Res. 276) on the FY12 NDAA.  The Congresswoman emphasized to her colleagues that H.R. 44 has passed the House with bi-partisan support on five separate occasions.  She made it clear that resolution of Guam War Claims is important, given what is being asked of Guam to support the military build-up.

H.R. 44 and the amendment submitted by Congresswoman Bordallo contained compromise language that is supported by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees as well as the Obama Administration, including the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior.  This is the same language that was agreed to during informal conference negotiations between the Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain.  However, due to time constraints during consideration over the FY11 Defense Authorization Bill, the bill was forced to be considered under unanimous consent.  A few Senators objected specifically to the inclusion of H.R. 44, and it was stricken from the bill.  Congresswoman Bordallo received a commitment from Chairman Buck McKeon to include H.R. 44 in this year's defense bill.

The H.R. 44 amendment would authorize payments to (living) survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II as well as the heirs of those who died during the occupation.  The language excludes the descendents of survivors of the occupation (those survivors who have since passed away).

"I strongly oppose the decision of the Republican-led Rules Committee to bar H.R. 44 from being debated on the House floor," said Congresswoman Bordallo. "H.R. 44 has passed the House on five separate occasions, and each time with bi-partisan support.  The rule instituted by the Rules Committee denies the people of Guam the up or down vote they deserve regarding this most important matter.  The Committee's decision was made behind closed doors, and Committee Members did not have the decency to tell me about any concerns they had with my amendment.  This process lacks transparency and accountability, and it does not promote an open, democratic government. 

"Chairman McKeon committed to including H.R. 44 in this year's defense bill, and I appreciate his support, but the Republican leadership would not allow him to honor his commitment.  The Rules action is wrong, and it betrays the word of the Armed Services Chairman.  Although this is a significant setback, I will continue to fight for war claims and will work with our bill's supporters in the House and Senate to overcome the procedural obstacles that are being used to block Guam War Claims."

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