GUAM BILL CALLS FOR REPRESENTATION IN U.S. SENATE

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Political analyst says idea is unconstitutional

By Erin Thompson

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 7, 2011) – At a time when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has stripped delegates of their symbolic voting power, one Guam lawmaker would like to send two Guam representatives to the U.S. Senate.

"We would like not only to partake in the discussion on matters relating to Guam, but also be part of the decision-making process," said Sen. Frank Blas Jr.

Blas wrote Bill 2-31, The Guam Self-Determination and Self-Representation Act of 2011, which aims to send elected representatives to the U.S. Senate on behalf of Guam. The representatives would be elected beginning in 2012, before which the Democratic and Republican parties would select representatives to serve.

The law also would take $330,406 currently used to fund the Guam liaison office in Washington, D.C., to pay for the positions. The positions would not affect the non-voting delegate position elected to House of Representatives.

"We're American just like everybody else, so why we can't have the same opportunity and representation like everybody else?" Blas asked.

The legislation would not rely on the permission of Congress, but simply fund positions that would then attempt to take seats in the Senate. If passed, the legislation could force the hand of U.S. officials to either turn away the elected representatives or accept their presence in the Senate, Blas said.

"Are we American citizens or not? ... Is this an American possession or is this part of the United States or not?" Blas asked.

University of Guam Professor Michael Stoil, an assistant professor of political science, said the legislation may do little in gaining Guam political representation in Congress.

"Basically the problem is that it's unconstitutional," said Stoil. "Only members of the federal union are entitled to send senators."

While Guam residents might consider themselves part of the United States, as a territory it has few rights.

"Despite the fact that our license plates say Guam USA, Guam has been specifically ruled not to be part of the United States," said Stoil. "We're an unincorporated territory, we're not part of the United States. They can do anything. That's what being an unincorporated territory means."

Ron McNinch, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Guam, has repeatedly made the case for sending delegates to the U.S. Senate.

"This is a version of a tried and true method first pioneered by Tennessee in 1796. Variations of this method were later used by Arkansas, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, California, Kansas, Wyoming and Alaska," McNinch wrote in a letter for the Sunday Forum opinion pages in the Oct. 12, 2008, Pacific Sunday News.

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