A solution to Guam's shortage of skilled construction workers outside and within the military bases survived the defense spending bill that was ironed out between House and Senate negotiators.
The Guam labor provision is part of the $740 billion defense bill called the Mac Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It would allow Guam to bring in foreign workers on H-2B visas for civilian projects in addition to the H-2B visas for the military construction projects, Guam's newly reelected delegate to the House of Representatives stated.
"After securing language in H.R. 6395 ... to extend H-2B labor authorization on Guam to civilian projects, the final language of the (National Defense Authorization Act) agreed between the House and the Senate keeps the provision intact," Del. Michael San Nicolas stated in a press release.
"For years, we have seen our construction costs go up because of our construction labor shortages, making housing more expensive and stifling our real estate, construction and private sector industries," San Nicolas stated. "Neither H-2B exemptions for military projects, nor lawsuits by our contractors were able to meaningfully alter these challenging circumstances," San Nicolas stated. "Today, we are on track to pass the necessary language to finally remedy the construction labor shortages for the people of Guam, and bring to a close one of the most challenging federal issues affecting our development," he added in the press release.
"I would like to thank my policy team, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate, on the Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Judiciary Committees, the Armed Services Committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Greg Massey, Juan Carlos Benitez, and our local counterparts in the Republican Party of Guam, for all coming together to address this at a time when every opportunity to economically recover must be seized," the Democratic congressman stated.
Massey is with the Guam Department of Labor Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division. Benitez, a Republican, has helped lobby Guam issues, including for the military buildup, in Washington, D.C.
The defense bill now proceeds for final adoption by the House and Senate, and to President Trump for signing into law.
Trump, in a tweet, stated he would veto the defense bill.
The president, whose term ends next month after losing to President-elect Joe Biden, took issue with what's called the "Section 230" provision which he wants piggybacked into the defense bill.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields technology companies from legal liability for the content posted by their users, and Trump wants this language "terminated" via the defense bill.
"Trump's fixation with rescinding Section 230 reflects the White House's ongoing war with Facebook, Google and Twitter over allegations they are biased against conservatives – charges that the three tech giants deny," The Washington Post reported.
Certain Republican allies of Trump disagreed with the president on addressing the Section 230 issue in the defense bill.
"(Section) 230 has nothing to do with the military," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, and a Trump ally, was quoted as saying in The Washington Post Friday. "I agree with his sentiments, we ought to do away with 230 - but you can't do it in this bill."
Some Republicans were even more pointed about their disdain for what many lawmakers viewed as an 11th-hour stunt, the Post reported.
"I will vote to override," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an Air Force veteran, wrote on Twitter in response to Trump's veto threat. "Because it's really not about you."
The defense bill also contradicts Trump on his call for a quicker withdrawal of U.S. troops in South Korea and Germany.
The defense bill contains a prohibition on reducing the number of troops stationed in Germany and South Korea below current levels unless Congress receives certain guarantees that it is strategically safe, and lawmakers are given ample time to consider the drawdown, the Post reported. The Trump administration announced last summer it planned to move about 12,000 U.S. troops out of Germany.
The bill states the secretary of defense must certify that certain conditions have been met and consultations have occurred at least 120 days before attempting to reduce troop levels in Germany below 34,500, and 90 days before attempting to reduce the number of troops in South Korea below 28,500. The reductions were included in the House's version of the defense bill, and endorsed by a group of Senate Republicans.