Guam-specific legislation can move forward in the U.S. Congress with relative speed, and Del. Michael San Nicolas has shown this via the passage Thursday of House Resolution 1365, which he introduced to correct an oversight in the war reparations bill his predecessor Madeleine Bordallo had introduced.
H.R. 1365 was introduced in late February. Nearly five months later, it passed the House of Representatives with unanimous support. This legislation brings Guam's victims of Japanese atrocities in World War II closer to getting supplemental reparations.
The legislation offers a technical fix that would allow the U.S. Department of the Treasury to cut checks for Guam's wartime victims whose claims have been adjudicated by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. As of last month, the commission had approved more than 662 claims. More than 2,000 other claims have been submitted by the filing deadline in June last year.
The law covers claims for reparations for death, rape, personal injury, severe personal injury, forced labor, forced march, internment and hiding to evade internment. The law provides compensation to each survivor at an amount of $10,000, $12,000 or $15,000 depending on the severity of the adjudicated claim, the law states. For a deceased victim for whom a claim was filed by the deadline, an immediate family member can receive the payment.
The U.S. Senate is the next step, but it's worth noting that San Nicolas received overwhelming support in the House – despite doubts expressed here on Guam, including those voiced by certain of his fellow Democrats that he wouldn't get things done because he's a freshman.
"The unanimous passage of H.R. 1365 is a testament of the full support Guam has in both parties to bring closure to our Greatest Generation," San Nicolas said, giving credit to colleagues across the political aisle. San Nicolas had faced obstacles, cynicism and criticism from his own peers in the Democratic Party of Guam who remained attached to Bordallo and her seniority in Congress. Bordallo lost her re-election bid last year to San Nicolas, who ran for Congress the first time.
"This outcome exonerates the local distractions critical of our work and sends a clear message that the people's agenda in Washington, D.C., is best served by supporting this office of the people," San Nicolas said.
"The Republican Party of Guam was instrumental in securing this unanimous vote and deserves special recognition for working with my Democrat office on behalf of the people of Guam," he added.
Certain Democrats did recognize San Nicolas' efforts within hours of the passage of the legislation Thursday. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said, "The House of Representatives' passage of H.R. 1365 is great news for the people of Guam. I congratulate Congressman San Nicolas for his continued determination to usher this very important legislation through the congressional legislative process."
Sen. Amanda Shelton said, "With the passage of H.R. 1365 in the House we move one step closer to closure. I want to thank Congressman San Nicolas for his work and congratulate him on the passage of H.R. 1365."
Thank you, Del. San Nicolas.