A session that dragged on for more than four hours failed to resolve several longstanding concerns on the House of Representative rules for the CNMI’s 19th Legislature.
During a Friday session on Capital Hill, lawmakers debated, held discussions—and even argued—over several items in the proposed House rules.
The concerns included the proposal to increase the number of members of certain committees by combining existing committees, the “shared” leadership, and how to go about its transition, and the suspension of a three-fourths vote required to pass a resolution, among others.
One sticking point is that the current House speaker will step down after a year, and the vice speaker will succeed him. Minority lawmakers in previous sessions maintained that an election of the next House speaker is the right direction to take.
In short, there were not enough votes to pass House Resolution 19-5, which contained the House rules.
As with previous sessions, the majority bloc was not able to muster three-fourths of the votes needed to pass the resolution, with the minority bloc refusing to budge.
HR 19-5 was introduced by Rep. George Camacho (R-Saipan), the House floor leader and head of an ad hoc committee reviewing the House rules.
Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), leader of the minority bloc, asked for an explanation on several amendments of the House rules.
For Rep. Antonio P. Sablan (Ind-Saipan), there is no need to tackle the amendments one by one and that all of the comments of the other lawmakers have already been noted by the ad hoc committee.
Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), a member of the minority bloc, took to social media to vent his frustration.
“Might as well burn the rule book of the House of Representatives if all the leadership wants to do is suspend the rules all the damn time. Today, they suspended rule 16 section 1, which requires a resolution to amend or repeal House rules to appear for one legislative day and a 3/4 vote for adoption. We had an agreement that the leadership reneged on. They did a bait and switch in terms on what was on calendar and a substitute that was later submitted. It was not even an urgent or an emergency situation,” said Villagomez on his FaceBook page. “I wanted to post this because people were wondering what was going on and why we stayed so late.”
House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said after the session that the House rules resolution has been a longstanding issue and should have been resolved by now.
For Deleon Guerrero, the back-and-forth discussions were also par for the course for CNMI lawmakers. He said the session was mild compared to previous sessions in past legislatures where some lawmakers nearly came to blows and became physical.
At the end of the day, it will always be about numbers, he said.
Perhaps one of the more interesting sound bites during the session was the comment of Rep. Anthony Benavente (Ind-Saipan) who quipped, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”