To the people I work for


Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan is the CNMI non-voting delegate to U.S. Congress.

Today, I am filing my candidacy papers for the election on Nov. 6 to continue to represent you in the United States House of Representatives. And I am again asking you for your vote.

For those who have been with me since the beginning, when the odds were against us, thank you for believing. You believed in me to work for you in Washington and to make sure that Washington works for us, the people of the Marianas.

Last week, Washington did work for us. The Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act was signed into law. Without it, the Trump administration would have cut the number of CW workers in half on October 1. Our economy would have been dead in the water.

With the U.S. Workforce Act, the CW cap is reset to 13,000 and the application window for next year is open again. Our own, local workers will have more protections than ever. And we now have a specific, ten-year timetable in the law, so everyone knows exactly how to plan for the future.

Writing the Workforce Act so it was acceptable to the Commonwealth government, the business community, and individual constituents and would have any chance of passage in Congress—then getting it passed—this was the hardest thing I have done in my ten years as your representative.

We were working against the odds: In June, the Speaker of the House could not get his immigration bill passed. His own Republican majority said no. That same month, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee could not get his immigration bill passed. His own Republicans would not support it.

But the Marianas got our immigration bill passed, the U.S. Workforce Act—against the odds.

As hard as that was, looking back, it seems in every Congress we set difficult goals.

In the 114th Congress, we aimed to change the formula for federal school funding—against the odds. Powerful Senators like Richard Burr of North Carolina and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania argued back and forth in the conference committee about changing this formula to benefit their states. In the end, the only change—increased funds for island schools—was the change I proposed. This year, as a result, our teachers and students have an extra $4 million, which will now continue year after year.

In the 113th Congress, we got an extra $30.5 million to help Marianas families put food on the table—against the odds. The Republican majority cut food aid nationwide that year. Because of our work on the Agriculture Committee, only the Marianas got more.

Each of these legislative successes taught me new skills. When I took the oath in 2009, I had worked as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate for a year. I had served in the Marianas Legislature for four years. None of that compared to what I have learned as a member of Congress:

– How to time any legislative effort in Congress, so we have the best chance of success;

– How essential it is to work with Republicans and Democrats to get the job done;

– The influence of seniority;

– The importance of professional staff on committees, at the Congressional Budget Office, the Parliamentarian’s; and

– All the complicated mechanics of passing a bill in Congress—we got my Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion bill passed last August, when the House was technically in recess!

I have learned how to win for the Marianas in Congress, even as a “non-voting delegate”— against the odds.

I have also learned how much more there is to learn. Every year, my vision of what is possible for us in Congress has grown and expanded. Every time I climb one of these legislative mountains—like getting more food aid, more school funding, the workers we need for another 10 years—every time I get to the top I can see farther ahead. I can see more mountains to climb.

And I know we can do it, because we have climbed mountains before. We have a record of success.

I have already started laying out my agenda for the 116th Congress—“Agenda 116,” I call it—the mountains ahead of us, so everyone can see where we are going.

I have introduced legislation to give our long-term workers—and their employers—a way to get off the CW rollercoaster, a permanent home in the Marianas.

My proposal to make a bachelor’s degree affordable for any graduate of our Northern Marianas College is part of the Democratic vision for higher education—the Aim Higher Act—which we introduced last week.

I will be rolling out more of “Agenda 116” in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

Everything on my legislative to-do list aims to better the lives of the people of the Marianas, the people I work for. Everything on the list is ambitious, difficult, against the odds.

I believe we can do it, because we beat the odds before and we can beat the odds again.

Thank you for your support over the last ten years. And thank you for your vote on Nov. 6.


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