Guam World War II Reparations Stripped From Territories Bill

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U.S. Senate removes provision after Republicans objected

By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 20, 2014) – U.S. citizens on Guam could get priority treatment when it comes to federal housing assistance, according to an Omnibus Territories bill approved yesterday by the U.S. Senate, but Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo expressed disappointment that the Senate once again rejected a provision to pay war claims to Guam.

According to Bordallo's office, four Republican senators: Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee; John Barrosso, of Wyoming; Mike Lee, of Utah; and Tim Scott, of South Carolina, removed Guam war claims from the bill, and also a provision that would have saved the local government as much as $500,000 in local matching funds for federal grants.

The Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee left those provisions intact in the bill it worked on, according to Bordallo's office, but they were removed before floor consideration by the full Senate because of objections raised by the four Republicans.

"I am extremely disappointed that H.R. 44 was removed from the Omnibus Territories Act that was passed by the U.S. Senate this evening," Bordallo said yesterday in a written statement. H.R. 44 is her latest war claims bill for Guam, introduced in January 2013, and included in the Omnibus Territories bill last summer.

It would tap federal section 30 funding for Guam -- income taxes paid by the island's federal employees -- to fund reparations for Guam residents who suffered during the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II. It called for payments of as much as $15,000, using an increase in section 30 money expected from the pending military buildup.

Guam is seeking reimbursement from the federal government and not Japan because the United States decades ago forgave Japan's war debts.

There is no official cost estimate for Guam war claims, but news files cite a figure as high as $80 million. That's less than half the cost of earlier reparations bills.

'Ideological grounds'

"Passing war claims has been a long standing issue for our community and has been an effort that Congressmen Won Pat, Blaz, and Underwood, and I have all worked to resolve. The latest version of the bill addressed every concern that has been raised by conservatives, and it would have had no impact on federal spending. Despite addressing each of these concerns, several U.S. Senators continue to object to this bill on ideological grounds and have fundamental objections with opening reparations for any group."

Congress came close to approving war claims in 2009, when the Senate offered to pay war claims, but only to survivors of the war, and not their descendants. Bordallo at the time rejected the offer, saying she wanted descendants to be paid as well.

Her war claims proposals have been rejected ever since.

According to Pacific Daily News files, critics of the reparations bill, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remain influential and conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, are ready to challenge the measure if it advances.

Some Guam lawmakers in early 2013 opposed the idea of using section 30 funding for the payments, arguing Guam would be paying the debt with its own money.

They relented, however, after Bordallo said the measure had no chance of moving forward without a way to offset the federal government's costs. They passed a resolution supporting her bill.

"I will continue to work to find a resolution that finally recognizes loyalty of the people of Guam during World War II," Bordallo said yesterday.

"I will consult with the governor and the Legislature and on our remaining options to advance war claims I am committed to continuing our fight for war claims for our manamko' despite all the obstacles the conservative Republicans continue to raise."

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