Underwood the Underdog


The position of the non-voting delegate in the US Congress is something I've been fascinated about for many years. As a scholar I’ve channeled this fascination into research. Over the past fifteen years I’ve conducted more than 50 interviews from different people who have been in some way tied to the non-voting delegate position. 

I’ve been able to sit down and interview former Guam delegates Bordallo and Underwood, former US Virgin Islands Donna Christensen, former (and now deceased) American Samoan delegate Eni Faleomavaega and current delegate from Washington D.C. Eleanor Holmes Norton. In addition, I’ve also interviewed people who have worked on territorial issues in the US federal government, including those who have worked in the Guam delegate office from Won Pat and even to current delegate San Nicolas.  

 

I dedicated a chapter of my dissertation to discuss the strange and peculiar position of the non-voting delegate. The so-called greatest country in the world permits its territories to send non-voting representatives into the heart of its democracy. With this we can see two ends of the political spectrum, that the delegates represent both the inclusivity and benevolence of the US, but also its hypocrisy and continuing colonial reality. 

 

This is the main test that each delegate faces in office; is that the system is designed to be against them and those they represent. It is designed for them to be voiceless, since they are not a true part of the union of states. Some of the design may be nefarious, some of it may just be indifference. 

 

But because the system is designed like this, it is often times the easiest thing in the world, for the delegate simply to go with the flow. To accept the marginal position Guam has been given within the US and within the Congress, pretend that Guam is just like any other place within the US and its empire, and hope for the best. 

 

When I interviewed Congresswoman Bordallo she used the phrase “state-like” treatment many times to refer to Guam’s relationship to the US. Rather than her highlighting the struggle of the territories and their delegates as unique, she instead sought to couch it in being similar to what all representatives experience. She didn’t feel that there were many unique challenges in representing a territory. 

 

But “unique” is a critical notion for delegates. Central to their argument is that they represent unique needs or histories that go beyond just differences between districts or states. They have to tell the story of their territory to keep it distinct, to have an impact, while not being lost in the national shuffle. The system is designed for the delegate to simply go with the flow, and be the happy smiling semi-American tokens, to make it easier for the US to not deal with the realities of its territories, many of which remain formal colonies. 

 

But that is why it is important to remember that while the position of the delegate was created by the Congress, they are the sole voice for those that are meant to be voiceless. They are meant to carry those unique truths into the heart of American political amnesia. They are there to tell the stories of their territories and remind them about the issues the US might know nothing about or might rather forget.


Out of the six politicians who have served in the non-voting delegate position to Guam, Won Pat, Blaz, Underwood, Bordallo and San Nicolas, the one who has taken this aspect of the job the most seriously has been Robert Underwood. In terms of a delegate who just goes with the flow and doesn't push beyond the limits of what a mere territories is supposed to receive, Underwood was able to succeed using a variety of strategies. Won Pat was also able to accomplish a great deal, but the Congress was different in his time, politics somewhat different and his approach was different. But Won Pat rarely strayed away from the tokenistic position, to challenge some of the assumptions of the system. 


From my archive, here are some news articles and press releases from Underwood's 10 year tenure as Guam's non-voting delegate. Underwood is running again for Congress and by many measures he is the underdog. The question is will voters appreciate (or remember) his record of the past? Will they recognize what he can bring again to that position?


***************************

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 

NEWS RELEASE November 17, 2000

CLARIFICATION ON THE IMPORTATION OF BETEL NUT
FOR PERSONAL CONSUMPTION

In response to numerous inquiries regarding the Food and Drug Administration's new ruling on the importation of betel nut for personal consumption, Congressman Robert A. Underwood has sought clarification and received assurance that betel nuts, either hand-carried or mailed, will not be confiscated, provided they also comply with existing U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.

In a November 13 letter to the Congressman, the FDA wrote that its Import Bulletin #23-814, "New Developments Regarding the Status of Betel Nuts (Areca Nuts)," and the cancellation of Import Alert #23-06, "Automatic Detention of Betel Nuts," have been distributed to all FDA import managers, who were also directed to alert their U.S. Customs Service counterparts.

"In addition, managers were instructed to reinforce FDA's policy that betel nut products imported for personal consumption are not prohibited or considered contraband," wrote Melinda K. Plaiser, the FDA's associate commissioner for legislation.

"These changes do not just apply for Guam, but for anyone bringing betel nut into the United States from anywhere else, as long as it is for personal consumption," Congressman Underwood said, adding that he was recently assured that small amounts may also be sent in the mail. However, mailed betel nuts also must comply with USDA rules, which state that they must be peeled (unhusked) and cut or cracked.

"I would like to hear from anyone who has difficulty bringing in or mailing pugua to the States," the Congressman said.

Last month, the Congressman tested the situation himself by taking a small amount of peeled and cut-up pugua and pupulu (pepper leaf) to Hawai‘i. Although the pupulu was confiscated, the betel nut was allowed with no hassle. But other travelers have not been as fortunate, he said, adding that he has received numerous complaints.

"I think we all have to come to an agreement over what constitutes 'personal consumption' and we have to have a better understanding of USDA policies, in order to be in compliance when we send or travel with pugua," Underwood said.

*********************


NEWS RELEASE September 17, 2002

CONGRESSMAN UNDERWOOD FROM GUAM

 

The Japanese American Citizens League today commended Congressman Robert A. Underwood for his outstanding leadership on issues important to the civil rights and Asian Pacific American community.

The JACL, based in San Francisco, is the nation's oldest and largest Asian Pacific American civil and human rights organization. At its board meeting today, the JACL unanimously passed the commendation in a resolution which also expressed appreciation for the Congressman's unwavering support, lamented his decision to retire and wishing him luck in his future endeavors.

"The JACL has enjoyed working with Congressman Underwood over the past ten years," stated JACL National President Floyd Mori. "The integrity, commitment and leadership he brought to his work were an asset not only to the people of Guam but also to the entire country. We thank him for his dedication and wish him well back in Guam."

"Representative Underwood has been a great champion of APA issues throughout his tenure in the House of Representatives," added John Tateishi, JACL National Executive Director. "In my experience of working the Hill, it's always been a pleasure working with his office because I could always expect his support on those issues that matter to the APA community. We're losing a real friend in the Congress. He'll be sorely missed."

"The National Board Resolution is a fitting tribute to a great American who has always been an advocate for the national Asian American and Pacific Islander American Community," noted JACL Vice President for Public Affairs, Ken Inouye. "Congressman Underwood's departure from the House of Representatives will be viewed as a great loss by all Americans who value members of Congress that recognize and make that additional effort to serve the diverse members of our country."

 

JACL RESOLUTION COMMENDING CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD

 

WHEREAS, Congressman Robert A. Underwood is the Delegate from Guam to the United States House of Representatives;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood is serving his fifth term in Congress and has been an active member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, including his chairmanship of the Caucus during the 106th Congress;

WHEREAS, in addition to being an ardent advocate for his home island of Guam and other islands in the Pacific, Congressman Underwood has been a national leader on issues affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and has been a strong champion of civil liberties;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood, as a school teacher in 1975, successfully challenged the Guam Pacific Daily News' English-Only publication policy, in what was the first of other protest demonstrations; and twenty years later, in opposition to Congressional English-Only legislation, he drew national media attention for suggesting that Congress may as well mandate ketchup as the national condiment;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood was named "Citizen of the Year" in 1996 by the National Association for Bilingual Education for rallying members of Congress to defeat English-Only legislation;

WHEREAS, today Congressman Underwood is regarded as one of the most vocal proponents in Congress of bilingual education and language access for persons with limited English proficiency;

WHEREAS, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressman Underwood fought for the establishment of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; spearheaded the inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program; and demanded greater accountability by government officials in data collection and addressing the specific needs of subpopulations within the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, particularly in higher education and health;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood was instrumental in the enactment of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000; has advocated for civil rights, including support for hate crimes legislation aiming to expand current laws to include discrimination based on gender, disability and sexual orientation; and has supported legislation to eliminate racial profiling, including in the federal work place;

WHEREAS, through his stewardship he has raised the profile of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus by organizing several important briefings and forums on Asian American and Pacific Islander issues, including a briefing on the impact of racial profiling and security investigations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at the Department of Energy National Laboratories; a forum on the status of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Higher Education; a forum on Federal Data Collection; and a Congressional briefing and week-long exhibit of World War II Comfort Women in the Rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood successfully and proactively led Congressional support for the passage of a $5.124 million appropriation to establish a visitor center at the Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California, which is one of the internment camps across the nation where 120,000 Japanese Americans were relocated and interned during World War II;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood has continued to support efforts to preserve the World War II Japanese American internment camps and other sites important to Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage;

WHEREAS, during the 107th Congress, Congressman Underwood spearheaded a National Higher Education Summit of Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian American scholars in Washington, DC in 2001; successfully introduced and fought for the passage of a House Concurrent Resolution which would authorize the production of a book entitled Asian and Pacific Islanders in Congress; introduced H.R. 4825, legislation to authorize grants for higher education institutions serving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and continues to call for the establishment of a national Asian American and Pacific Islander College Fund;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood has not only tirelessly served the constituency of his district of Guam, he has ardently served the national Asian American and Pacific Islander American community;

WHEREAS, Congressman Underwood is retiring from the House of Representatives at the end of the 107th Congress, after serving with distinction for five consecutive terms;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Board of the Japanese American Citizens League, on behalf of its membership in 112 chapters across the country and in Japan, commends Congressman Underwood for his continual and proactive work to address issues of concern to the Asian American, Pacific Islander and civil rights communities; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the National Board of the Japanese American Citizens League extends its deepest appreciation and thanks to Congressman Underwood for his invaluable leadership as an educator, community advocate and Member of Congress.

Adopted: September 14, 2002

**************************

GUAM’S UNDERWOOD FIGHTING UPHILL BATTLE ON CAPITOL HILL FOR PACIFIC’S ATTENTION

By Craig DeSilva

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (July 28, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---U.S. Rep. Robert Underwood has walked the marble halls of the nation’s Capitol for the past eight years as the Democratic delegate from Guam.

During his tenure, he has been involved in controversial pieces of legislation and has sat on committees that deal with hot-button issues.

But there are some days Underwood becomes frustrated at his job when it comes to getting his Congressional colleagues’ attention on issues concerning Guam and the rest of the islands in the Pacific region.

Maybe it’s the proximity. Guam, a U.S. territory, is located more than 12,000 miles from Washington, D.C. The closest U.S. state to Guam is Hawai‘i, which itself is isolated from the rest of the nation.

Guam could also be overlooked because of its population: only 160,000 people.

Whatever the reason, Underwood has taken it upon himself to bring to light on Capitol Hill issues concerning Pacific Islanders.

"It’s like fighting an uphill battle," Underwood said. "Trying to bring attention to the Pacific Islands is problematic."

Underwood was among several speakers at a program sponsored by the East-West Center in Honolulu earlier this month called "U.S. Pacific Relations in the New Millennium." The program was attended by about 100 people at the Hawaiian Regent Hotel in Waikiki as part of the Center’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Underwood said much of the attention in Congress focuses on the so-called "Rim" or "donor" countries, big economic powers such as Japan, China and the Koreas. In the meantime, the smaller islands in the center of the Pacific Rim are overlooked, despite the U.S.’s historical role in strategic and trade relations in the region.

Those few members of Congress who are familiar with the Pacific, he said, are typically World War II veterans who fought in battles in the region. Because of the war, Underwood said, "islands such as Hawai‘i, Guam, and Wake Island became household names in American society, but it was primarily focused on the World War II experience."

"The World War II veterans (in Congress) are always a base that you can build on, but I don’t think they necessarily have a great understanding of the Pacific region either," he added.

Underwood said he quickly learned a few tricks of the trade when trying to get his colleagues interested in Pacific-related issues.

"Whenever I introduce a policy regarding the Pacific, I always preface it with World War II battles in the Pacific," he said. "It’s an important connection and a useful political tool."

Underwood is afraid his constituents in Guam and other Pacific Islanders will not get the political and economic benefits provided by Congress. One example is the Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill, introduced by Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation led by Sen. Dan Akaka (D-Hawai‘i). The bill would give Native Hawaiians federal recognition and the right to sovereignty that many Native Americans on the U.S. mainland are accustomed to.

"This is something American policy is ambivalent about," he said. "More attention is given to indigenous people in outside countries than indigenous people under our own flag."

One of the biggest issues Congress will be facing regarding the Pacific involves renegotiating the Compact of Free Association. The 15-year aid agreement section, which expires next year, gives U.S. aid money to the Federated State of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

A recent Congressional hearing on its renegotiations focused mainly on how the FSM allegedly squandered $1.6 billion in U.S. taxpayer money. Underwood approached the committee to shed a more balanced and historical perspective to relations between the U.S. and FSM.

Another Pacific Island issue that may involve the U.S. includes deep seabed mining, regarded as a promising economic opportunity in the region.

"The U.S. is out of the loop on these kinds of issues," Underwood said. "Other countries are getting involved. I’m afraid our own country will get left out."

Underwood adds that the lack of interest in Pacific Island issues is a problem that goes beyond the Pacific.

"There’s a general lack of interest in international relations in the country at large," he said. "For example, when committee assignments are made in the House of Representatives, invariably the last committee to be filled is in international relations. One statistic says as many as one-third of the members of the House of Representatives don’t even have passports. So you have a lack of interest and lack of concern.

"Many representatives don’t travel out of the country for political reasons for fear of being accused by constituents in their districts of being derelict in their duties or taking advantage of the trappings of their office. And it would be much, much worst if they traveled to the Pacific Islands," Underwood quipped.

One positive thing, Underwood said, is that economic and strategic planning in international affairs is moving away from European countries and leaning increasingly more toward Asia.

"It’s a positive trend because it tends to highlight the Pacific Islands," he said. "But we’re still left out of the equation."

"In the end, Pacific Islanders will demonstrate their situation better than the United States. They know better how to survive in this century. But we need the help of the U.S.," he said.

*************************

GUAM DELEGATE UNDERWOOD WANTS PEOPLE TO COME BACK HOME

By Scott Radway Pacific Daily News

HAGÃ…TÑA, Guam (August 10, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---When the economy in Guam finally turns around, Delegate Robert Underwood said he wants everyone who left the island during the hard times to "come back home."

To that end, Underwood said he will push for the creation of a federal registry of workers who leave or have already left the island for better job opportunities.

"When recovery comes, I want our people to come back home where they belong," Underwood said.

The registry is in the conceptual stage and it is still undetermined exactly how it will be compiled or how it will be used to get people to return, he added.

The registry initiative was just one of the ideas that Underwood unveiled Wednesday during his 75-minute "State of Guam's Agenda in Washington, D.C.," speech.

Underwood also announced plans to work with the Pacific Rim Workforce Development Association to develop a worker training program in the region. In June, he signed an agreement with the association to create a strategy for a viable training program for the industrial arts.

The goal, he said, is to run the program through the region's various training and educational centers. Underwood said he also is working with the U.S. Labor Department, and that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has committed her agency to tailoring its Job Corps Training Program to match the region's needs.

"Basically, we are trying to provide a mechanism to train local workers and make them available to contractors who come to the island," Underwood said.

In an effort to honor the 45 men and boys who were beheaded by the Japanese army on August 8, 1944, Underwood said he wants a memorial built on federal property in Yigo.

The delegate said he added language to a bill that will clear the way for the monument. That bill will now go before the House.

Last year, Underwood gained approval for a memorial for the Fena Cave Massacre. Underwood also fought to have Guam included in the national World War II monument to be built in Washington, D.C.

"Those who suffered should be honored and those who died should not be forgotten," Underwood said.


********************

AFTER ELECTION WIN, GUAM DELEGATE UNDERWOOD TURNS HIS FOCUS TO

UPCOMING VISIT BY PRESIDENT CLINTON

Variety News Staff

HAGATNA, Guam (November 5, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---With the elections over, winning Guam Delegate Robert Underwood said he will now concentrate on the preparations for President Clinton's visit to Guam on November 14-15.

"I will go back to Washington to do preparations for the President's visit and hopefully be able to accompany him out here," Underwood told the Variety in an interview.

"I want to make sure that for the time that the President is here, he will have a fuller understanding of what Guam is all about. It may be one of the few times that we'll get his attention on several items unique to Guam. So I feel very strongly that we should take advantage of the moment."

Underwood said he will try to get the President involved in the discussions about Guam's strategic military role.

"We should make the local-federal partnership work and help the President understand the economic situation we're in here on Guam because of military downsizing and the Asian recession."

Underwood added that the presidential visit will also help Clinton have a deeper understanding of the people of Guam.

"He will have a chance to hear the Guam story ... to understand what makes Guam so unique. The people of Guam have one foot firmly planted in the Pacific while the other foot is in the United States. We're in a very unique situation and we want the President to fully appreciate that fact," he said.

Usually, the President makes policy announcements when he travels abroad. Underwood is hoping that the President is going to make some policy announcements about Guam. "We understand that he may have six or seven hours of activity related to Guam, so we're hopeful."

"Of course, he's also on island to adjust himself to the dramatic time change between Washington and Malaysia," Underwood added. "So he also wants some leisure time to recharge and prepare himself for the APEC conference. He might want to play a round of golf. I know the President wants to attend some kind of fiesta on Guam and have some recreational time."

The President's visit here does not come as a surprise for Underwood.

"It was something that we discussed several times. It was simply looking for the opportune time. It was obvious of course that he will not visit Guam solely. So when the APEC opportunity came for him to visit Guam, he took it."

As early as May of this year, Underwood said he already extended an invitation for the President to visit Guam. In a White House meeting with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Underwood took the opportunity to take up several Guam issues with the President.

"I raised two specific items with him relative to Guam. First, I reminded him that Guam was part of the Spanish-American War. I pointed out that most of the war was actually fought in the Pacific, as opposed to the Caribbean, and that as Guam was commemorating the 100th anniversary, it would be a nice touch if he would find the time to go to Guam this year."

Underwood said that during that meeting, the President, as on previous occasions, reiterated his interest in visiting Guam and indicated that his staff was still trying to work a visit into his schedule. "He said he wanted very much to go to Guam."

The President's visit here, Underwood added, is a very strong statement about Guam's importance to the United States.

"And it is a statement about the high esteem that the President has for the people of Guam."

*********************

GUAM’S UNDERWOOD SWORN IN FOR FIFTH TERM IN U.S. CONGRESS

By Susan Roth Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 5, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Sworn in for his fifth term Wednesday as Guam's delegate in Congress, Democrat Robert Underwood has lots of legislative plans but remains undecided about his political future.

''It's no secret that I'm thinking about running for governor, but that decision has yet to be finalized,'' said Underwood, surrounded by dozens of friends, family, government officials and other Pacific islanders at a crowded reception at his new digs in the Rayburn House Office Building.

''My focus remains on making sure I provide the service the people of Guam deserve for these next two years,'' he said, adding he is unsure whether he will run for Congress again. In the past, Underwood has talked about how much he misses Guam.

Mostly, it was new House and Senate members who held receptions after taking the oath of office, but Underwood said he has invited guests at the start of each term because it is a good excuse for a party.

''It does everyone good to have a little kelaguen,'' he said.

There was a huge bowl of kelaguen on a table also laden with empanadas, titiyas and sweets of all kinds. Guests filled every part of the freshly painted and redecorated four-room office, once occupied by former Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia before he became House speaker. Underwood's staff scrambled to seize the new office when it became available because it has a great view of the Capitol dome.

When Congress gets down to business after the presidential inaugural January 20, Underwood said he plans to reintroduce two measures that passed the House but failed in the Senate last year: A bill to establish a commission to determine U.S. restitution for World War II abuses against Guamanians, and a bill that would lower the tax rate for foreign investors.

Underwood also plans to push for additional aid to offset the impact of U.S. compacts with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and hopes to schedule hearings to learn more about the ongoing negotiations of a new compact.

New legislation he is developing would address implications of Guam being outside the U.S. customs zone, Underwood said, which means the territory has been treated like a foreign country in ways that have hindered business.

''But my top priority is to work with the Bush administration to educate them on our legislative issues,'' he said. ''I hope to work in tandem with the other delegates and also to work with the Guam Republicans on that project.''

*********************

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

 

NEWS RELEASE May 2, 2002

PASSES DEFENSE ACT; THREE GUAM-RELATED
AMENDMENTS ADDED TO LONG LIST

Congressman Robert A. Underwood announced today that the House Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 4546, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, which includes seven provisions that would directly benefit Guam.

Three provisions were introduced during today's daylong hearing, while four amendments, which Armed Services subcommittees passed last week, were preserved in the bill.

The first amendment added today was a provision "encouraging the exploration of a public-private partnership to manage the distribution and supply of potable water on a more efficient basis in Guam." The military's reputation of reliability in utilities service could make Guam attractive to more off-island investors if accomplished, Underwood said.

"If the Department of Defense is involved in developing water and wastewater systems in this way, you are more likely to attract additional private sector interest in Guam," the Congressman said. "More companies would be willing to invest in Guam if there was an integrated system between the military and our civilian community."

Underwood also successfully obtained a Guam exception from a provision that would allow the federal government to transfer military property to non-governmental entities for "nature conservation" purposes. Passage of the provision will not allow the Government of Guam the opportunity to acquire these lands, which goes against the Guam Land Return Act.

"In order to avoid that, I included a specific provision exempting Guam from 'conservation conveyances,'" the Congressman said, adding that he was pleased with the Committee's passage of the exemption provision. "This is really very special. It indicates that the House Armed Service Committee understands the unique land situations we have on Guam."

Lastly, Underwood joined in the introduction of a provision that would establish Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams in every state and territory. The support teams, made up of highly trained National Guardsmen and women, are tasked with responding to chemical and biological attacks occurring in the United States. There are only 32 Civil Support Teams in existence nationwide, however, Underwood said.

"I, and a couple of other Committee members, introduced an amendment that mandates the Department of Defense to work towards ensuring each state and territory be assigned one of these Civil Defense Teams," the Congressman said. "That would mean money, resources, and the development of such expertise in our National Guard."

The Committee also preserved four other Guam-related provisions passed in Armed Services subcommittees last week, including:

*       An amendment to provide Commissary benefits for National Guardsmen and women during national emergencies;

*       $75 million for military construction on Guam, including a $15.5 million water/wastewater system for Andersen Air Force Base and an appropriation requested by Underwood for $7 million to construct Phase III of the Guam Army National Guard Readiness Center in Barrigada;

*       An amendment introduced by Underwood to establish a "single point of contact" and an advisory and review for unexploded ordnance; and

*       A U.S. Navy-requested provision that would allow the military "incidental," or accidental "takings" of migratory birds at the Farallon de Medinilla live-fire artillery range.

The bill, which passed in Committee 57-1, is expected to pass the House floor after it is debated next week, May 8 and May 9, Underwood said.


*********************

Guam Set to Lobby in Washington D.C.

By Steve Limtiaco Pacific Daily News

HAGÃ…TÑA, Guam (October 25, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Four Guam senators are in the nation's capital this week, lobbying to get federal economic assistance for the island.

"We're putting out a united front here. We'll be meeting with Congressman (Robert) Underwood as well," said Speaker Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita. "We'll be discussing a lot of issues in terms of what he'll be doing in the House, as well as what we'll preach in the same voice over at the White House."

Sens. Vicente "Ben" Pangelinan, D-Barrigada; Eddie Calvo, R-Maite; and Kaleo Moylan, R-Barrigada, are also in Washington with Unpingco.

Underwood told the Pacific Daily News earlier this week that he plans to introduce an amendment to a House economic stimulus bill to bring more direct assistance to Guam and the other territories.

The request is the result of an economic downturn caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Underwood said the stimulus bill consists mainly of tax cuts. Among other changes to the bill, Underwood will ask that Medicaid caps be lifted and that Federal Emergency Management Agency unemployment assistance be extended to Guam.

Senators said they are scheduled to meet with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asian Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Base Installations.

They also are scheduled to meet with Rep. James V. Hansen, R-Utah and chairman of the House Resources Committee.

"We're here in a strong bipartisan effort. We have a Senate that is controlled by the Democratic Party, but at the same time we have an administration and a House of Representatives controlled by Republicans. It's important that we show a united front," Calvo said.

"We're going to focus on our economic stimulus packages, the lifting of Medicaid caps, the exemption of the 60-month time limitation of (welfare cash assistance) programs for many of our welfare recipients."

Calvo said the Guam senators also plan to lobby for more compact-impact aid and greater government spending on Guam.

He said they are trying to dispel any notions in Washington that Guam opposes the U.S. military.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

 

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

 

NEWS RELEASE October 24, 2001

GUAM LEADERS PLAN ECONOMIC RELIEF STRATEGY IN D.C.

Congressman Robert A. Underwood today met with Speaker Tony Unpingco and Senators Ben Pangelinan, Kaleo Moylan and Eddie Calvo, who are in the nation's capital until Saturday, to shore up support for Guam's inclusion in the economic stimulus package making its way through Congress.

The Congressman briefed the Senators on his efforts to attach a Guam-specific proposal to the economic stimulus bill, which would extend unemployment assistance and national emergency grants to Guam and the territories. The proposal would also increase the current territorial matching waiver for federal funding from $200,000 to $500,000, lift the Medicaid caps for the territories and level the playing field for foreign investment in Guam.

"We had a good meeting and thoroughly fleshed out the options for bringing economic relief to Guam," said Congressman Underwood. "Together we are aggressively and vigorously pursuing these objectives."

"From the beginning I have emphasized that we must take a collaborative approach in Washington, D.C. so that there is a unified voice talking about Guam's current situation. We reaffirmed that commitment with Congressman Underwood in our meeting today," said Speaker Unpingco.

"I believe that the main concern that we share with Congressman Underwood is to get as much federal assistance as possible by ensuring that Guam is included, in every possible way, in the economic relief package that is in Congress today. We are encouraged by Congressman's interest in participating in the meetings we have scheduled while in Washington, D.C.," said Senator Moylan.

"I was pleased to see that Congressman Underwood has been working on many of the issues we have identified as vital to our island. As he continues to work through legislation, we will focus on gaining support from the Republican Majority in the House and ensuring that the White House understands the issues that Guam is faced with in these dire economic times," added Senator Pangelinan.

"I am pleased the Senators were able to make this visit and carry Guam's cause to the Capitol. Our collaborative efforts will ensure Guam is heard and considered in this process," the Congressman, adding that he remains optimistic that relief for Guam will be integrated into the package when the bill is taken up by the U.S. Senate.


************************

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

 

NEWS RELEASE August 1, 2002

FY 2003 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION CONFERENCE
COMMITTEE; WILL AGAIN FIGHT FOR GUAM PROVISIONS

Congressman Robert A. Underwood reported today that he has recently been appointed a "conferee" in the upcoming conference committee on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, giving Guam and the territories another opportunity for inclusion in defense spending.

Congressman Underwood was one of 17 House Republican and 13 Democrat core conferees appointed to the committee, which is charged with resolving differences between the House and Senate legislation.

In addition to being a core conferee, Congressman Underwood was assigned to sit on four committee panels -- Personnel, Readiness, Sea power, and Strategic -- which would afford him the opportunity to directly influence provisions specific to Guam and the territories, including:

*Amending of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow for the uninterrupted continuation of training on Farallon de Medinilla. The provision, adopted by the House at the request of the Department of Defense and supported by Congressman Underwood, is not in the Senate bill;

*Military construction funding for Guam, including $7 million in funding for Phase III of the Guam Army National Guard Readiness Center;

*The unexploded ordnance (UXO) provision secured by Underwood, which would establish a single point of contact in the Department of Defense for addressing these UXO matters and allow for the establishment of an independent advisory board;

*Commissary privileges for the National Guard members activated during a declared "national emergency," as many were immediately after the September 11 tragedy, and;

*The authorization of a Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team for the Guam National Guard.

"I am very pleased to have such direct interaction with the defense budget bill, because it considerably increases the chances that these provisions will be included in the final bill sent to the president," the Congressman said. "I have been successful in having these amendments adopted in the House bill, and I'm ready to work to have them included in the final version."

The conference committee and its panels are expected to meet regularly through September to resolve the differences between the House and Senate defense bills.

******************

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE July 26, 2000

HOUSE PASSES UNDERWOOD'S GUAM OMNIBUS OPPORTUNITIES ACT; LANDMARK LEGISLATION ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING LAW

Congressman Robert A. Underwood hailed today's passage of H.R. 2462, the Guam Omnibus Opportunities Act, by the House of Representatives as a victory in the long-standing issue of federal land return to the people of Guam.

"The Guam Land Return Act provision will forever change the way we deal with federal land issues," the Congressman said. "It puts Guam at the head of the line for return of federal excess lands ahead of other federal agencies; it incorporates the definition of 'public benefit' contained in P.L. 103-339, which I passed in the 103rd Congress and which is, to date, the most flexible way that we've been allowed to deal with excess land; and it requires the Government of Guam and the Fish and Wildlife Service to negotiate on the future management and ownership of lands under the Wildlife Refuge. All of these very important, critical provisions allow Guam maximum flexibility."

H.R. 2462 also contains the Guam tax treaty provision which would allow foreign investors to be taxed in Guam at the same advantageous treaty-negotiated rate as the states. "Seventy-five percent of the capital that comes into Guam is from foreign sources, but our tax rate is fixed at 30% by federal law because we are not included in the tax treaties that provide for lower rates for the fifty states," Underwood said. "This provision gives us parity of treatment and is vitally important. Hopefully, it will give us a jump start in dealing with the problems that we have with our economy."

Although some have criticized the Omnibus Opportunities Act's betel nut provision as frivolous, Congressman Underwood said it addresses the larger issue of Guam treatment outside the U.S. customs zone. "I have humorously called it the Freedom for Betel Nut to Travel Act, and it calls for a narrow interpretation of Guam as being inside the customs zone for dealing with pugua. This has very important implications for Guam. I believe that the people of Guam should not be treated as if they were coming from a foreign country as they go through customs. From now on, going through customs should merely a formality to deal with tariff issues and customs issues. This provision establishes that precedent, as well as allows us to bring pugua for personal consumption into the states and to share with friends and relatives who live inside the customs zone," he said.

The last provision in the act calls for governors of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and Hawai‘i to submit annual reports on the impact of migration from the Freely Associated States. "I believe the process should begin with the governors, not the Department of Interior," Underwood said. "The strength and veracity of this approach was dramatized last week when the Interior Department, for the first time, issued a report responding to the Government of Guam. In that report they were more accurate on the true impact of the Compacts in Guam than they've ever been in the past."

The Clinton administration continues to express reservations about the Act, which must still be taken up by the Senate, but the Congressman remains confident it will be passed. "We still have the Senate, and we still have to respond to the administration, but I believe we are on a positive track. The bill enjoyed very strong support from both Democrats and Republicans and was one of only a handful of bills taken up in this critical week before the August recess. I look forward to its passage by the Senate," Underwood said.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chamorro Public Service Post #13: Baby Vocabulary

Chamorro Public Service Post #11: An Gumupu Si Paluma

Angels carrying savage weapons