GUAM’S $200 MILLION WAR CLAIMS BILL ON THE LINE

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GUAM’S $200 MILLION WAR CLAIMS BILL ON THE LINE

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 18) – The Guam war claims bill faces an uncertain fate in Congress during the next couple of months because of the large cost involved, the November elections, and the need to approve 10 budget bills first, according to Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo's office.

The bill, which would spend nearly US$200 million to compensate residents for the atrocities they suffered during the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II, has been on the House union calendar since early June, and the Republican leadership of the House will determine whether it makes it to the floor.

If the bill, introduced by Bordallo, is not approved and signed into law by January, it must be reintroduced during the next session of Congress and again receive committee approval.

One of the primary concerns for Guam residents is securing war reparations while those who suffered during the occupation still are alive to receive it.

The House and Senate are next expected to reconvene November 9, following the General Election, according to Bordallo's office, but how long they will meet during that "lame duck" session could depend on how the election turns out.

"The appropriations bills are the priority bills for consideration when the House and Senate reconvene," according to a written statement from Bordallo's office. "While there may be an opportunity to bring other bills to the House floor, it is impossible to predict how the leadership will decide on the extent of legislative activity in the lame duck session, especially if the House changes hands from Republican control to Democratic control as a result of the elections."

The bill calls for US$25,000 payments on behalf of residents who died during the occupation and smaller payments in cases of injury and forced labor.

Guam is seeking compensation from the federal government and not Japan because the United States forgave Japan decades ago.

The Congressional Budget Office earlier this year determined that paying the war claims described in the bill would cost the federal government about US$180 million over a four-year period, plus US$11 million to implement and process the payments and US$5 million for a grant program to support activities in memory of the occupation.

Hundreds of residents submitted written and verbal testimony to a federal fact-finding commission, and Bordallo's bill is based on that commission's recommendations.

According to Bordallo's office, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., has asked the House leadership to schedule the bill for floor consideration.

The request is supported by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, according to Bordallo's office.

And the bill has 112 co-sponsors, including Rep. Nick Rahall, D- West Va., the ranking Democratic member of the Resources Committee.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR news files, Bordallo earlier this year described spending measures as difficult to pass because of the cost of the war in Iraq and the cost of hurricane recovery from Hurricane Katrina in the mainland. Most bills introduced in the House do not make it out of committee, but the war claims bill has been considered and approved by two House committees. (See Story)]

"I continue to work with Chairman Pombo, ranking member Rahall, Chairman Sensenbrenner, ranking member Conyers and the leadership of the House to bring H.R. 1595 to the floor for consideration by the full House," Bordallo said in a written statement. "This is a difficult bill to move forward because of the objections that remain over its proposed cost to the federal government. Moving any bill that would increase federal spending other than for defense has proven difficult in the current environment. I am doing everything I possibly can to take advantage of legislative opportunities to pass this bill in the House in the remaining days of the 109th Congress."

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