If Guam’s delegate to Congress has her way Guam will see more top-level U.S. officials visiting Guam in 2005 but meanwhile every opportunity in Washington to further Guam’s agenda will be pursued by Madeleine Z. Bordallo.
Bordallo on Oct. 7 breakfasted with Donald Rumsfeld U.S. Secretary of State for Defense together with other female members of the Armed Services Committee. “I asked ‘What about the global reposturing — when will we have information?’ He told me by February of next year the master plan should be out ” she said. As I was leaving Doug Feith [under secretary for policy at the Department of Defense] came up and told me ‘Congresswoman you’re going to be very pleased with the plans we have for Guam.’ The military are always cautious when they talk about future plans.”
Despite that caution Bordallo is aware of buildup details. “Of course we know already that we have nine nuclear subs coming to Guam. That’s going to mean real impact. There are 150 personnel on each nuclear sub and many of them bring their families. This will mean an increase in housing and so forth. I’ve had quite a few contractors come in asking me if it’s worthwhile building apartments or homes and I say yes.” Dredging of Apra Harbor is due to start in 2006 in preparation and the economic impact assessment has begun.
Visits that might clarify Guam’s situation are often at chair level and Bordallo said despite a hefty agenda a visit by Duncan Hunter chairman of the Armed Services Committee is not impossible. Bordallo also keeps abreast of military developments through local contact. She said “I met recently with Admiral Johnson [commander of Naval Forces Marianas] — he normally comes to see me whenever I come to Guam. He has mentioned some of the people that will be visiting (See “Newsbriefs on Page 7.). When you see this many military VIPs coming to the island to look us over you know big things are in store for us.”
Bordallo is aware of the sensitivity of one region gaining assets at the economic expense of another. “Just by my talking in the Armed Services Committee — asking for a carrier when I was only a member for three months — I could see people from San Diego looking around.” Similarly the delegate said “I was also questioning one time about typhoon chasers. We lost all our typhoon chasers — they went to Mississippi. The representative from Mississippi sits right behind me. He wrote me a little note ‘We’ve got them and we want to keep them.’” Nevertheless Guam will receive an unmanned aircraft to measure storms as part of a pilot program in 2005.
Bordallo sits on three congressional committees: the Armed Services Committee the Small Business Committee and the Resources Committee and is using that leverage.
“ I have talked to the ranking member of the Small Business Committee — Mr. Donald Manzula — and he is very interested in coming to Guam and has said that it will probably be right after the first of the year.” That visit would occur between Congresses.
The delegate does not expect a great deal of change in the congressional committees but will have to lobby again for her committee seats in the 109th Congress. “There may be some changes in sub-committee membership but for now it will be those three committees. I’ve been a very conscientious member — I don’t miss meetings — and take my job very seriously in Washington so I think I’ll have a good chance but I’ll have to go down and put in my request.”
Veterans’ issues have been raised with the delegate both to her office and at town hall meetings on Guam and she has taken them up at chairman level. “I would like to see the processing office located on Guam. I don’t think we should be dependent on Hawaii anymore. Veterans have said that it takes anywhere from six months to a year to get an ID card.”
“I have also talked to the Veterans’ ranking member — Lane Evans — he has been on Guam before. I told him about some of the veterans’ issues that we have.” Bordallo said that Evans’ interest in Guam is heightened by the new Navy hospital to be built in phases begining in 2007 to 2008 which will include a Veterans’ Wing outside of the hospital.
Bordallo said she will follow up in Washington with whatever issues arise in Guam. “The Earned Income Tax Credit may be something that I have to look at to see if we can get federal funding for that; the debt forgiveness — we have a good chance on that. The governor and I have talked this over — I have the connections in Congress but when it comes to the White House the governor will have to make the request. We’re putting a lot of pressure there.” The delegate said debt forgiveness to the Virgin Islands of $185 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency loans might also be considered a precedent.
“I don’t have certain priorities — it’s whatever concerns Guam.” Having said that the Bordallo told the Journal other issues she would pursue included resolution on Guam’s World War II compensation claims. “I’m going after that as soon as the 109th goes into session. We are ready with the report — the commission has said there was not parity on Guam.” The commission recommended a variety of amounts for compensation for different situations. Bordallo said “I will probably put in an amendment to the bill to take it back from1990 to right after the war. That’s probably my first priority — this time we’re going to bring closure to it.”
The delegate also will work to level disparity in Medicaid health care funding for Guam and reduce the island’s share of Medicaid expense. Guam has a Medicaid cap through which it is reimbursed only about 25% of Medicaid expenses compared to about 50% elsewhere.
Bordallo met with the Journal on Nov. 13 following a visit to Tokyo to attend meetings of the U.S.-Japan Legislative Exchange program whose Japanese chairman is minister of defense. Issues discussed included international security economics and trade. About 20 Japanese parliamentarians — members of the Diet and of the program — will pass through Guam in May on their way to the U.S. mainland.
An increase in Medicaid funding to Guam did not make it in the final language that was worked out in conference between the House and the Senate. Bordallo said she Dan Burton chairman of the House Subcommittee on Wellness and Human Rights — who visited Guam on Oct. 26; and other territorial delegates will continue working with Joseph Barton chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee; to address health disparities in the territories during the next Congress. MBJ