US Democrats back full voting rights, health care expansion for territories
The Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee has listed advocating for full voting rights and health care expansion for U.S. territories among its priorities.
"We support establishing a congressional task force to gather findings on voting rights in the territories, and recommend changes to Congress to allow for the full and equal voting rights of U.S. citizens who are residents of the territories in federal elections, and for full and equal voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives," the committee states in its 2020 platform.
"The American citizens of the U.S. territories should have the right to vote for President of the United States. Democrats will support self-determination for the people of the U.S territories, including respecting their right to decide their future status in a fair, binding and equitable manner."
The committee noted that the U.S. territories have played a vital role in American democracy for more than 120 years, and have for too long been met with unequal treatment by the federal government.
"We recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices made in service of our country by the Americans living in the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands," the committee said.
A series of adopted amendments support extending the Affordable Care Act to Guam, providing Medicaid coverage for migrants from freely associated states, and treating Guam equally for Medicaid, eliminating the cap on federal reimbursement and applying the same formula for reimbursement as any state.
“Getting Guam’s issues into the Democratic Party’s national platform strengthens our ability to make the case on a federal level that our people’s rights and interests are national issues,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
“If the federal government delivers on these commitments, thousands of our people could become insured and federal funding can allow our local taxpayer money to be better utilized to deliver services to the people of Guam.”
In addition to addressing health care, amendments were provided for improved territorial representation and decolonization, investing in climate change resilience and Covid-19 economic recovery, treating territories equally for all important federal programs, pursuing additional war claims for Guam’s war survivors, and increasing federal government support for COFA migrants in Guam.
The amendments on the territories were proposed by Guam and other territorial delegations and adopted by an overwhelming majority of platform committee members.
Democratic Party of Guam Chairwoman Sarah Thomas Nededog said, “I want to thank the Democratic delegates of Guam and the territories for advancing so many issues important to our people. With the amendments passed today, our national platform will call for full equality for the territories in all important federal programs, some of which do not yet apply to Guam.”
The call for equality in federal programs mirrors the reasoning in U.S. District Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s recent ruling that there is no rational basis for excluding people on Guam from receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits to which they would be entitled in any state or the Northern Mariana Islands. Bills to extend SSI benefits to people on Guam have been introduced by each of Guam’s delegates to Congress.
"We will improve health care access and affordability and support policies to address health disparities in the U.S. territories. We believe the territories should be treated equally with respect to important federal programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, SNAP, and the Child Tax Credit, that reduce poverty and support working families," the committee said.
"And Democrats commit to ensuring veterans from the U.S. territories have access to timely and quality health care and other benefits through the VA. Democrats will continue to work with the people of Guam to properly memorialize residents who suffered unspeakable harm as a result of their U.S. nationality during the Imperial Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II."