‘Territories must be represented in Congress’

National GOP’s push for ‘equal US citizenship’ leaves Kilili skeptical

Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) told Saipan Tribune yesterday that he believes “non-state areas” of the U.S. should have “full representation in the U.S. Congress.”

Through an email to Saipan Tribune, Sablan said he agreed with Sen. Justo Quitugua’s (Ind-Saipan) statement last Monday when asked for comments on the Republican National Committee’s resolution pushing for “equal U.S. citizenship.” The resolution would be submitted to President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The date of submission was not specified.

“The people of the non-state areas of the United States, the ‘territories,’ should have full representation in the U.S. Congress,” wrote Sablan in his email.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the only way to have full representation, or two senators and one representative for every 700,000 or so residents, would be for the CNMI to become a state.

“In addition, [the U.S.] Congress could give us statehood by law; no constitutional amendment would be required,” said Sablan, explaining that if U.S. Congress so chooses to grant the Marianas statehood, it would be possible.

“If the Republican National Committee is now committed to full representation for U.S. citizens of the Marianas and other non-state areas, then the Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate should pass legislation making each of these areas a state,” he said.

According to Sablan, it was the Republican Party that “took away” his ability to vote in the Committee of the Whole.

The Committee of the Whole is when all the members of the U.S. House, including delegates of territories, vote on the floor to amend legislation before the vote on final passage.

Sablan said the last time he had a vote in Committee of the Whole was when Democrats held the majority during his first two years in Congress, which was around 2008 to 2010.

“When Republicans came to power, they stripped me and the other delegates of our vote. So, again, I am very suspicious of the Republican National Committee’s policy statement,” said Sablan, adding that if the Republican National Committee really meant what they are pushing for, they should “immediately restore my vote in the Committee of the Whole.”

“… When Democrats were in the majority, I have even served in the Speaker’s chair and presided over the U.S. House of Representatives.”

“… Talk is cheap. If Republicans really believe in full rights of citizenship for us, then they should take action, just as the Democratic Party has done, when it controlled Congress,” said Sablan.

Despite the skepticism, Sablan was glad that the Republican National Committee acknowledges the “second-class citizenship of the people living in non-state areas of the U.S.”

The Republican National Committee over the weekend came up with a resolution titled, “Affirming Equal Citizenship for All Americans.” U.S. Virgin Islands’ national committeeman Jevon Williams sponsored the resolution, which included calling out U.S. Congress to ensure U.S citizens residing in Guam, the CNMI, and the Virgin Islands to fully enjoy the benefits of being a U.S citizen.

Quitugua, when asked for his comments, said he was in support of the intent to provide equal rights for CNMI residents, including the other territories.

“I am in support with the intent to provide equal rights for NMI residents and other territories. I am [in support of] the right for [our delegate] to participate in whole U.S. House sessions and for the right to vote on U.S. House bills,” he said in an earlier interview with Saipan Tribune.

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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