Murkowski: CW extension bill may pass Senate unanimously

‘There is general and broad support’

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, right, speaks with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) soon after the congressional delegation arrived at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport from Tinian. (Erwin Encinares)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) believes her legislation that would extend the sunset provision of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program would pass the U.S. Senate unanimously.

Murkowski, who was concluding her one-day visit to Tinian and Saipan yesterday, said in a brief press conference immediately after the customary wreath-laying at the Court of Honor of the American Memorial Park that she believes S. 2325, or her bill that extends the transitional period for another 10 years, would garner unanimous support from the U.S. Senate.

Murkowski was leading an eight-person congressional delegation, or codel, which consisted of her husband, Verne Martell; Joint Region Marianas commander Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield; Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP); Delegate Aumua Amata C. Radewagen (R-AS); U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources senior Republican counsel Isaac Edwards; committee staff Emy Lesofski; and U.S. Department of Defense’s commander Jeremy Lyon.

According to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who was with the delegation for most of the trip, they visited places such as the Last Command Post; Suicide Cliff; Banzai Cliff; and other sites on Saipan and on Tinian.

The codel also had a closed-door lunch meeting on Saipan with several members of the business sector as well as members of the 20th CNMI Legislature.

The wreath-laying ceremony, which was held yesterday afternoon, was followed by a brief press conference. The press conference was the media’s only opportunity to raise questions.

Responding to a question on the chances of her legislation getting enacted by the Trump administration, which does not really support immigration laws, Murkowski said she believes that U.S. President Donald J. Trump would consider enacting the legislation if the U.S. Senate supports it unanimously.

“I think we have worked very hard to find a product that is a compromise—we recognize that this [bill] is not anything that all would want, but that is what makes legislation. We are very close, I believe, to moving this legislation through the [U.S.] Senate with unanimous consent,” Murkowski said.

“[The unanimous support, if obtained,] is very telling. I think that gives the President a very clear message—that there is general and broad support—and I do believe that he will sign it,” Murkowski added.

Due to the codel’s tight schedule, not too many queries were entertained. The codel’s next destination is Palau. Yesterday, the codel visited Guam and Tinian. The group arrived on Saipan past noon and immediately proceeded to the Surf Club in Chalan Kanoa for a luncheon meeting with the business community.

S. 2325, or the U.S. Workforce Act, seeks to reset the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000; provide three-year validity to the work permits of long-time CW workers; and extend the CNMI transitional period, along with programs under it such as the CW program and E-2C investor program, to fiscal year 2029.

Effectively, S. 2325 extends the CW program for an additional 10 years.

S. 2325 was introduced by Murkowski on the U.S. Senate floor on Jan. 19, 2018. Simultaneously, CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) introduced to the U.S. House the exact same bill.

On Feb. 6, 2018, a legislative hearing was held on S.2325. Murkowski, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also led the bipartisan, bicameral working group tasked with studying the parameters of the extension.

A substitute bill was reported out on March 20, 2018. That same day, S.2325 was placed on the U.S. Senate calendar.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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