Editorials 2019-December-20

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The next midterm elections are less than a year away

SOME of the House minority bloc members have very strong opinions about the governor — especially since he became governor.

They campaigned against his election and even held their noses as they aligned themselves with certain questionable characters who also opposed him. They have all been critical of the governor even before the austerity measures, the FBI raids and allegations of misuse of government funds. But that is their right.

It seems, however, that some of them are unwilling to acknowledge that other people can disagree or object to their proposals or pronouncements. Surely they do not believe that they (or anyone else for that matter) can be “right” all the time? Surely they know that others may beg to differ, and not because of a “moral failure” on the part of those who disagree with them?

In any case, we can argue over political controversies endlessly. We can even argue whether a controversy should be considered political. In the end, it would be like debating how many angels can dance on the point of a needle. It could be entertaining for some, but probably pointless all the same.

Now some say that because a previous House impeached a previous governor, then this current House should impeach the current governor.

Again, a valid opinion. But those who subscribe to it may also want to refresh their memory.

For starters, the first call to impeach then-Governor Fitial was made by Rep. Tina Sablan in Aug. 2008 — even before “massage gate” and the many other controversies that would soon hound the former governor. It would take four more years before the House minority bloc members could draft an impeachment resolution with specific charges against the former governor. To impeach him, they needed 14 votes of the 20-member House. The actual vote was nine in favor and 10 against. As it was also an election year, the minority bloc and the rest of the opposition campaigned on an impeachment platform. And they won, big time. In Feb. 2013, the coalition of Covenant Party and Independent House members impeached the former governor. The vote in the House was 16 to 4.

As a then-U.S. congressman and future U.S. president once said, an impeachable offense ultimately “is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who ran on a National Union ticket headed by Abraham Lincoln, was impeached by a Republican House. Republican President Richard Nixon was about to be impeached by a Democratic House when he resigned. Democratic President Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican House. Republican President Donald Trump has just been impeached by a Democratic House.

In the CNMI, Republican Governor Fitial was impeached by a House dominated by opposition members who won their seats after promising the electorate that they would impeach him.

As Eric Black of MinnPost would put it, “If anyone can get a majority of the U.S. House and two-thirds of the Senate to vote aye on articles of impeachment of…the president, that person is no longer president, even if said impeachee still wants to argue that he or she hasn’t committed any crimes or misdemeanors. But if no one can get those votes, no impeachment occurs, no matter how skillfully the crime/misdemeanor argument is pressed.”

Some may say that it is disputable if any “skillful” argument has been presented so far to justify the impeachment of the current governor. Others may disagree. But pending a new announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the issue of impeachment boils down to numbers. In the House it’s 14 to impeach; in the Senate, it’s six to convict.

Probably because the online echo chamber seven years ago wasn’t as (deceptively) loud as it is today, the previous House minority bloc members took their case directly to the real deciders — voters.

Good job

WE commend Congressman Kilili for successfully including NMI provisions into federal appropriations bills that have bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress.

These measures would appropriate $120 million for CNMI Medicaid over the next two years, and allow qualified employers to apply for up to 3,000 CW permits for construction-work over the next three years. As the congressman noted, FEMA officials themselves have pointed out that “a lack of workers was a constraint” in the islands’ ongoing disaster recovery efforts which include building new and typhoon-proof homes, classrooms and office buildings.

We hope that the congressman and the CNMI administration will also continue working with other U.S. lawmakers or officials seeking more flexibility in their states’ ability to hire workers for certain job categories.

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