WASHINGTON, DC-Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) was sworn in Thursday afternoon (Friday morning, CNMI time) in the nation's capital for a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, with education and healthcare continuing to be at the top of his agenda, along with natural resources and immigration, among other things.
Sablan marks his third term in U.S. Congress amid another try to impeach the governor, a resurging CNMI tourism industry and less than two years before the end of the transition to federal immigration.
U.S. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) swore in Sablan along with other members of the 113th U.S. House of Representatives after Boehner himself survived the defections of a handful of Republicans. Boehner won the final vote tally 220 to 192 over House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California).
That was also a day after President Obama signed a compromise bill to thwart a dreaded fiscal cliff that could also have an impact on the CNMI and its taxpayers.
Sablan's ceremonial swearing in, around 3pm, was attended by his wife Andrea and special guests.
“When I raised my right hand and took the oath, I said that with a prayer, asking God to help me, guide me into doing the right thing,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune after the ceremonial swearing-in.
The delegate will have another ceremonial swearing-in on Saipan weeks later.
Sablan is an independent caucusing with Democrats in Congress.
Among the first few bills he will be reintroducing in this Congress include the 3-mile submerged lands bill which he said will be termed “territorial sea” legislation.
Sablan also reiterated that he will be introducing a “much broader” version of H.R. 1466, which seeks a grant of CNMI-only resident status to four groups of non-U.S. citizens on the islands, including foreign parents of minor U.S. citizen children.
The delegate said there will be a “fifth” group of individuals that will be covered in this new bill, but specifics about this latest group remain on the drawing board.
“It's early to tell. We will cover some of those not covered in 1466,” he added. This may include those long-term legal aliens without U.S. citizen children.
He reiterated that he will also seek every opportunity to attach his bill to any moving immigration or justice bill in Congress.
“I am not sure when immigration is going to be taken here in Congress, whether it's in the first two years of this administration or the next two years. Obviously we need the president's support on any immigration issue and he said he's going to support comprehensive immigration reform. How we approach that will depend on a lot of things,” he added.
Sablan won by landslide against his Republican opponent, Dr. Ignacia “Acha” Demapan, during the Nov. 6, 2012 midterm elections in the CNMI. Sablan got 9,829 votes against Demapan's 2,503, a remarkable 7,326-vote lead.
This vote margin is considered historic as Sablan is the first political candidate who recorded such a high winning total over an opponent. Sablan received 78 percent of the total ballots cast by the Commonwealth Election Commission in the 2012 polls.
“I am humbled,” Sablan said after his ceremonial swearing-in. “I am not here to make history. I ran to make a difference in peoples' lives.”
Sablan is the first and so far the only CNMI delegate to the U.S. Congress as a result of a 2008 law that also placed the Commonwealth’s immigration under federal control. He was re-elected in 2010 and 2012. Each term consists of two years.