Following is the full text of Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas' first congressional address delivered before the 35th Guam Legislature at the Congress Building in Hagatna on Jan 6, 2020.
HAFA ADAI! Buenas Tatdes, Magandang Hapon Po Sa Inyong Lahat, Good Afternoon. Speaker Muna Barnes, Senators of I mina trentai Sinko na liheslaturan Guahan.
Governor Leon Guerrero and Lt. Governor Tenorio, Chief Justice Maraman, Island Dignitaries, Honored Guests, Friends and Family, and most importantly the People of Guam… Thank you for affording us the opportunity to deliver our Congressional Address today, which marks to the closest calendar degree possible exactly one full year of service of the Responsible Guam Team as Guam’s Delegate to the United States House of Representatives.
More importantly, today marks what we celebrate as the feast of the Three Kings, or what we know on Guam as Tres Reyes. Approximately 2023 years ago Jesus Christ was born, and today, the Feast of the Three Kings is recognized as the Epiphany of the Birth of Jesus Christ.
This day is known as the Epiphany because it is regarded as the day when mankind realized and acknowledged that Jesus Christ was God incarnate as man, with this realization captured in the presentation of gifts in homage by the Three Kings – a representation that Jesus Christ reigns supreme.
To be here today, delivering this first congressional address in our service, on the Day of the Epiphany in the Liturgical year, at the start of a new decade in this millennium, at the beginning of this New Year in the First Official Session of I Liheslatura in the year 2020, is a coincidence so profound it is in itself an epiphany.
An epiphany in its ordinary sense – and by contrast, today is most ordinary – is defined as “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.
An intuitive grasp of reality through something, such as an event, unusually simple and striking. An illuminating discovery, realization or discourse.”
I pray that on this day, as we recognize the epiphany of Christ as Lord and Savior, we, too, can through his grace reaffirm the Ministry that is public service, and in this Address invoke divine grace among all leaders present, that we may dedicate ourselves to His Ministry of service in this work that we do. In that respect, I must confess that in my own humanity, my initial temptation was to use this day as an opportunity to engage the hostility that we have faced over the past year with equally veiled hostility.
But we are not going to do that. Instead we will begin by saying “Peace be with You.”
As we began this new era of congressional service, we reflected heavily in the months leading up to our inauguration on what it means to be vested with this enormous responsibility by our people, for our people. We have dedicated much time, in the beginning, throughout, and to this very day weighing the realities of office with the perceptions that we have heard unceasingly over many years.
Before becoming your Congressman, I was very much aware of many of the perceptions that still linger to this very day on our island about the non-voting delegate that is Guam’s seat in the Congress:
Territories don’t vote on the floor and therefore are of little consequence;
Territories are generally smaller communities and therefore don’t hold sway over much larger jurisdictions;
Territories do not vote for President and therefore struggle to make an impact.
The list of preconceived notions that would emasculate our capabilities – before we even try - goes on and on.
Nowhere is it more evident than in the disbelief expressed at the onset of many undertakings: This isn’t going to pass committee…this isn’t going to pass the house…this isn’t going to be taken up by the senate…the loss of seniority is going to cost us dearly…we are going to start from the bottom and it will take us forever to make an impact…the Congress is divided we won’t get anything through…a sad fatalism that has seen itself repeat over and over and over.
And yet while these mantras try to drown us in immobility and fear, the ultimate realization that we are all Guam has, left us no choice but to refuse to surrender, and instead invoke every talent, tactic, and strategy we can, to overcome.
From the onset we decided that in order to break out of this self-contained mindset we needed to be willing to do things dramatically different. Different in style. Different in approach. Different in the belief that Territories in general and Guam in particular IS CONSEQUENTIAL. And in so believing we set out to situate ourselves in every circumstance we could manage to be able to affect the dialogue in the Congress in ways that showcases Guam not just as a seat at the table, but as a valued voice, an active player, a valuable asset in the national discourse.
Our first major decision was to set our sights even higher in the Committee hierarchy of the Congress, pursuing the highest available seat we could pursue in the highest-ranking committee we thought we could attain.
In the Congress committee assignments are based predominantly on seniority and political clout within the majority, with the most nationally influential committees sought after by the Members with the most clout. Historically these “A-List” Committees are:
Ways and Means
Energy and Commerce, and
With my background in finance and a highly tailored lobbying strategy we set out to secure an A-List Committee seat, not only for the opportunities they would present for Guam, but also for the opportunity it would present for us to engage with more senior and more influential members of Congress who also secure such seats. We set our sight on Financial Services as our primary Committee target, and we were able to achieve it.
Today Guam is the first Insular Territory to hold a seat on this Committee. This is the first time that Guam has had a seat on any “A-List” committee. It has been recognized by other Members of Congress, officials in the Administration, and key centers of influence that we have attained a seat on this Committee, immediately calling to attention the fact that Guam has in this 116th Congress risen to be an “A-List” player.
To further cement this new reality, we set to work immediately to actively contribute to the discourse and processes of the Financial Services Committee to showcase that we aren’t just a warm seat in a crowded room, but rather a valuable resource to meet goals and objectives. Our hard work continued to payoff, as we were shortly thereafter appointed by the Chairwoman and voted without objections to serve in the capacity as the Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
This achievement in itself has opened many doors and created many opportunities to advance issues critical to our people here at home. Now, we have very senior members, very influential members, calling US, pen and paper in hand, asking “what are your goals?” “What are you looking to get passed?” “How can we help YOU?”
I would like to thank Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, the Democratic Majority of the Committee, and the Committee Staff Leadership for recognizing our talents and hard work to both appoint us to the committee and secure our appointment to the seat as Vice Chairman. I further wish to thank Ranking Member Patrick McHenry and the Republican Minority who both recognize the value of our contributions as well, and also have shown much grace in extending bi-partisan support for issues that benefit our community.
Perhaps the greatest example of direct benefit the people of Guam have in store on the Financial Services Committee is recently captured in our debate to re-authorize funding for the Export Import Bank of the United States, commonly known as the Ex-Im Bank.
The Ex-Im Bank is a federal government entity that provides loans and loan guarantees to United States companies that seek access to financing for import, export, or to facilitate the import and export of goods between foreign and domestic markets. Guam is incredibly well situated to facilitate imports and exports due to our geographic location to Asian markets, our capable port facilities, the unique perspective our people have of knowing what Asian goods would likely thrive in American Markets, and what American goods would likely thrive in Asian markets.
During the reauthorization debate in the Committee, I presented an amendment to create an Office of Territorial Exporting within the Ex-Im Bank that would dedicate specific personnel to work with Territories in the Pacific, and additional personnel to work with Territories in the Atlantic. This Office of Territorial Exporting will provide our local business community with direct expertise and support to access the $145 million in financing the EX-IM bank provides annually. This will not only open new markets for goods on Guam, it will also facilitate the transshipment of exports from other U.S. markets to Asia, and Asian markets to the U.S. with Guam as the transshipment hub for the flow of these goods.
This in turn will create jobs in the transshipment industry here on Guam, expand our ship repair industry, grow our warehouse and distribution industries, and provide goods to fill out- bound ships from Guam to help reduce the overall cost of shipping to Guam.
With our vessels no longer leaving empty, we can provide relief to shipping costs that are currently exacerbated by the Jones Act, which in all truth is incredibly difficult to repeal due to California and Texas interests. Rather than having to fight for a difficult repeal of the Jones Act to address shipping costs, we can work to reduce them ourselves by expanding our transshipment industry and tackling this with free market expansion.
Not only was this amendment supported by both our Chairwoman and Ranking Member, it is on the record as having unanimous support of the full committee, ensuring that we can pursue this opportunity as a stand-alone measure if necessary, with a high likelihood of unanimous support.
In light of this opportunity, I want to recognize and commend Senator Jim Moylan for introducing Bill 218-35 to provide local support for this opportunity. I strongly encourage I lehislatura to immediately entertain this measure through its legislative process, so that it may be
enacted and implemented for our local capacity to be enhanced to timely capture this impending opportunity.
On the subject of Senator Moylan, I also wanted to further recognize him for introducing Bill 104-35 to amend my local law that I enacted as a Senator here in I mina trentai quattro in 2018 with PL 34-103 to attract repatriated income through Guam with a tax incentive to encourage large multinational corporations to act.
Two years ago, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed to create a small window for a reduced tax on repatriated income. While this window has since closed it still has served the purpose of making repatriated tax incentives an attractive point of consideration, and the closing of the window only makes any available incentive all the more valuable. While I have been in receip