Why Bill Clinton Tried to Stop These Tiny Islands From Joining Congress

There are three reasons and they aren’t very good.

National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Lucia Graves
March 14, 2014, 1:24 p.m.

One of the less­er-known of­fices on Cap­it­ol Hill is that of Gregorio Sab­lan, the non­vot­ing del­eg­ate for the North­ern Mari­ana Is­lands.

Sab­lan’s is one of the most dis­em­powered po­s­i­tions in Con­gress (non­vot­ing del­eg­ates may only vote in a House com­mit­tee of which the del­eg­ate is a mem­ber, nev­er as part of Con­gress). Yet, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased Fri­day from the Clin­ton Lib­rary, get­ting even this puny amount of power was an up­hill climb.

The is­lands, loc­ated in the west­ern Pa­cific Ocean about three-quar­ters of the way between Hawaii and the Phil­ip­pines, were es­tab­lished as a com­mon­wealth in polit­ic­al uni­on with the United States in 1975. It wasn’t un­til 1986 that the is­lands were of­fi­cially placed un­der U.S. sov­er­eignty and its people be­came Amer­ic­an cit­izens. And it wasn’t un­til 2008 that its cit­izens were awar­ded a del­eg­ate’s seat in Con­gress — no thanks to the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In 1994, White House of­fi­cial Jeff Far­row ex­plained in a note to seni­or Clin­ton of­fi­cial Mar­i­cia Hale that while he per­son­ally thought the North­ern Mari­ana Is­ands should be al­lowed to have a del­eg­ate, it could prove polit­ic­ally trouble­some for the ad­min­is­tra­tion, cit­ing as evid­ence a front-page story in The Wash­ing­ton Post titled “U.S. Pa­cific Para­dise Is Hell for Some For­eign Work­ers.”

Clin­ton do­mest­ic policy ad­viser Jeremy Ben-Ami elab­or­ated in a note to fel­low do­mest­ic policy ad­viser Car­ol Rasco. “As I men­tioned to you pre­vi­ously, Keith Ma­son (In­ter­gov­ern­ment­al), Janet Mur­guia (Le­gis­lat­ive) and I have agreed to ad­vise Ed Co­hen, the Pres­id­ent’s Spe­cial Rep­res­ent­at­ive to ne­go­ti­ations with the Com­mon­wealth of the North­ern Mari­anas (CNMI) not-to en­dorse giv­ing the CNMI a Con­gres­sion­al del­eg­ate at this time,” he wrote.

Oth­er non­vot­ing del­eg­ates in­clude the Dis­trict of Columbia’s Elean­or Holmes Norton; Pu­erto Rico’s Pedro Pier­lu­isi; and Guam’s Madeleine Bor­dallo. Be­low are the reas­ons the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t think the North­ern Mari­ana Is­lands should join their ranks.

pic National Journal

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.