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There are 20 so-called “suspension” bills on the schedule for this week. Everything from bills to name post offices to land exchange bills.
But Congressman Sablan’s bill to grant CNMI-only status for U.S. citizen immediate relatives, NMI permanent residents, pre-covenant residents and spouses, parents or children of U.S. citizens did not make it onto the schedule.
Despite a huge breakthrough in November, when Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith agreed not to exercise his panel’s jurisdiction over H.R.1466 passed by natural resources, Sablan’s bill is not in the cue this week.
A week that could be the final week of this year’s session, as the House and Senate scramble to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and resolve big partisan differences over extending a payroll tax break, medicare doctors’ pay rates, and emergency jobless benefits.
Kilili pushed hard to get 1466 on the schedule, even meeting with leaders on both sides of the political aisle to lobby for support.
There’s still a chance, if the session runs long into next week, or if House-Senate bargaining on the major bills leaves holes in the schedule, then the house could still act.
But Sablan’s office admits the bill’s chances may now be ‘slim’.
And even if the House acts, the Senate would have to move the bill under unanimous consent rules at the last minute, not unheard of, but not always easy to do.
1466 was never an ‘easy sell’ in the House or Senate.
Governor Benigno Fitial actively opposed the measure in house testimony and letters to members, and now threatens to seek a preliminary injunction against U.S. CIS’s decision to grant humanitarian parole for most of those covered by the bill.
Thousands in the NMI for years, could be uprooted without some protection.
But Immigration has always been a very sensitive issue in Congress, with Lamar Smith and others asking why foreign workers in the NMI should get a break if those stateside, don’t.
Sablan’s office counters, those in the NMI are there legally, that 1466 gives them no new immigration benefits, that it’s really just a technical correction of the federalization law, and only applies to the NMI.
But in politics, where perception can easily become reality, 1466 faces not just the clock, but the realities of an election year that will decide control in the House, Senate and White House.