Monday, October 19, 2009

Madeleine's Dilemma

Madeleine’s dilemma .
Friday, 16 October 2009 03:45 by Gerardo Partido
Marianas Variety News Staff

Poor Madeleine, she was really caught unaware this time in a perfect political storm that was beyond her control.

The veteran politico, usually always one step ahead in reading political scenarios, is now finding herself in the unfamiliar position of having to defend her action in Congress.

For several years now, Bordallo has been diligent in pushing for Guam’s war claims, making sure that legislation is introduced each time a new congressional term begins.

This year, the Guam war claims legislation stood its best chance of being acted upon as Bordallo found a way to tie it in with the U.S. defense spending bill.

But with the Guam war claims legislation put so prominently before U.S. lawmakers’ attention, realpolitik set in and Congress decided against approving the Bordallo legislation.

When push came to shove, U.S. lawmakers decided that the Guam war claims bill, as currently written, could set a precedent, paving the way for additional millions of dollars in payout to other, non-Guam related claims.

With the U.S. economy the way it is, it was really doubtful whether Congress would agree to the Guam war claims legislation.

Unfortunately for Bordallo, the issue didn’t stop there.

At the last minute, a compromise was offered, proposing to approve Guam war claims but only limiting compensation to first generation descendants of those killed during the war and living survivors of the Japanese occupation.

Had Congress just disapproved the war claims bill entirely, Bordallo would not be in the hot seat she’s in right now. She could even be credited with bringing Guam war claims legislation closer to passage than it had ever been.

But the compromise offer put Bordallo in a tough situation. It was a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t situation.

Had she accepted the compromise, those excluded from the legislation would have damned her while if she declined the compromise, those who would have been included would have damned her just the same.

To make matters worse for Bordallo, the compromise was offered when the U.S. defense spending bill was all set to be voted upon and there was virtually no time to consult with constituents back home.

Of course, it’s also important to note that Bordallo’s congressional seat is up for grabs and accepting the compromise offer would have alienated several thousand voters who would have been excluded from the settlement.

But in rejecting the compromise, Bordallo may now have alienated both camps and she may suffer from this in the next election, which would be unfortunate since Bordallo has been tireless in working for Guam’s interests in Congress.

As expected, the congresswoman has already received sharp criticism for not accepting the compromise, most notably from Sen. BJ Cruz, who was himself a member of the war claims review commission.

Incidentally, tongues are wagging about Cruz’s vehement protest because BJ is not just a partymate of Bordallo but a Democrat of the Sunshine stripe. Wasn’t Bordallo once upon a time the lieutenant governor of Carl T.C. Gutierrez?

Some Democrats say it’s okay for BJ to express his views and his opposition, but he shouldn’t be doing it so loudly. It seems the previously solid Gutierrez-Bordallo alliance has now truly gone to pot.

But I say Cruz is entitled to express his strong feelings because the Guam war claims issue is one of those that transcend politics.

Meantime, some of the anger has been directed towards the federal government, the military in particular.

Sen. Judi Guthertz threatened to impose a toll on most vehicles entering or leaving Guam’s military bases, obviously in retaliation for the non-passage of Guam’s war claims.

Of course, the proposal was so out there that the military didn’t even deign to respond in public although I’m sure the military’s views on the matter were sent through back channels.

DPW’s Larry Perez also made a lot of noises, warning that the feds could call Guthertz’s bluff and withhold federal highway funding from Guam. Perez also pointedly remarked that his department wasn’t even consulted.

The toll plan has since been withdrawn but at least it has done its job of raising more awareness about the unfair U.S. decision on Guam’s war claims.

So where are we now?

The bitterness over the decision still hasn’t abated but as Sen. Ben Pangelinan pointed out it would be a shame if this bitterness (and the resulting division in the community) now stops the Guam war claims initiative just when the legislation has already gone so far.

Bordallo has said that she will introduce the bill again during the next session of Congress, this time with a public hearing on the measure.

Between now and that time, lobbying efforts for Guam’s war claims must be redoubled. We must push for a public hearing in Washington D.C. itself so that the Guam war claims issue would become more familiar to the nation’s lawmakers.

If we can, we should invite to the island Sen. Carl Levin and other members of Congress who don’t support Guam war claims so that they may feel first hand the injustice that has been done and realize that the issue is not something abstract that can just be measured by dollars and cents.

On Guam, more townhall meetings should also be held explaining the issues related to Guam war claims, especially the legal ramifications and precedents involved in previous claims.

This is necessary to inform the public about the possibility that we may not get 100 percent of what we want.

After these consultative meetings, Team Guam would hopefully have a united response in case a compromise is offered again next year.

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