GOP Senate can act on Kilili’s bill
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) said a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate could still act on a bill introduced by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) once the inaugural session of the 115th Congress opens on Jan. 3.
The GOP retained its hold on the Senate majority with 52 members against the 46 by the Democrats; two won as independents.
Sablan authored House Resolution 6401, which aims to increase the CNMI-Only Transition Worker Nonimmigrant Visa program’s numerical limit. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week but the Senate failed to act on it.
“We’re hopeful with the Republican majority at the U.S. Congress—House and Senate—the bill would go through and [finally] address the workforce needs that we have here,” said Demapan, the CNMI House of Representatives’ Federal and Foreign Affairs chair.
Demapan believes timing is an issue for HR 6401 failing to hurdle the U.S. Senate. “I think the Senate’s decision for the most part is an issue of timing. The bill came up very late. But we were fortunate to have the assistance of Delegate [Amata] Radewagon to get past the House.”
Radewagon is American Samoa’s non-voting delegate; she is a Republican, a ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources, and holds the vice chair post of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs.
Demapan pointed out that the provisions of HR 6401 are not an issue and it is the Senate’s prerogative to act on it. “The Senate had a lot of bills on its calendar and this is one that did not make it. But I believe the underlying issue is not about the provisions of the bill. Rather, the timing as the U.S. Senate prepares to transition to the new body.”
He said CNMI officials remain hopeful HR 6401 would get past the Senate with Sablan, the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and business leaders throwing their full support behind the bill.
“Again, we haven’t completely lost hope. [We] believe Delegate Sablan would continue to address the issue in the next U.S. Congress,” added Demapan.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had put on hold all bills that reached their chamber. The Senate Judiciary Committee also objected to passing immigration legislation.
HR 6401, if it had passed the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before his term ends on Jan. 20 next year, could have increased the CW1 numerical cap from 12,998 to 15,000. Sablan’s bill is also known as the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act.