Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faleomavaega on his people: Let Them Eat Cake

Well, the big day is tomorrow: American Samoa's first ever Congressional hearing. The "delegation" from Washington arrives on tonight's Hawaiian Airlines flight. What, no military plane? Nope. A special plane could not be justified because Eni could attract only one member of Congress to come: the subcommittee chairman, Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christiansen. Of course, there will be Eni, too, but we're having a congressional hearing tomorrow with no real congressmen. There will assorted staff members along for the ride but the good news is that without a bunch of long winded congressmen making opening statements, there ought to be a lot more time for witness testimony.

According to a news story on Radio KHJ this morning, Education and Labor Committee staff who are tagging along want to hear from wage earners, particularly those who favor the increase. And Faleomavaega said that since time was short and not everyone will be able to testify, those who do not get heard should submit their statements for the record.

Since the main purpose of this trip is to hear testimony on the effect of additional minimum wage hikes, a full day of hearings should provide plenty of time but, wait, they aren't starting the hearing until 1 p.m. No doubt they will finish in time for the cocktail hour. But, ah, you say, since they don't have a military plane they can't go back to Honolulu until Sunday night, so that should give them plenty of time to hold additional hearings on Saturday and maybe use the time on Sunday to visit various facilities on the island to get a better look at the territory's most pressing needs. After all, this is the subcommittee of jurisdiction (except, ironically, it does NOT have jurisdiction over minimum wage).

Not so fast. A story in this morning's Samoa News says that Eni is taking the group over to Apia for the weekend. What? The subcommittee has no jurisdiction over foreign affairs either but the subcommittee Eni chairs does. So maybe he just wants to show off. It looks like Chairman Christiansen is not going to have an opportunity to see much more of American Samoa than did the Majority Leader and Minority Whip, when they blew through here in January on a refueling stop from new Zealand. You will recall Eni missed that visit, because he was off inspecting fish farms in Israel with a bunch of U.N. ambassadors. This time he will be in Apia with the CODEL, essentially saying about his own constituents: let them eat cake.

So what is this all about? Window dressing. A favor to a fellow Democrat by Donna Christiansen in an election year. After all, her subcommittee has NO jurisdiction over the bill Eni introduced to freeze wage hikes. That bill has been referred to George Miller's committee. Miller is nowhere to be seen. And she doesn't have to worry about criticism for meaningless travel. She routinely wins reelection by lopsided margins (while the other small island territorial delegate is so popular, she runs unopposed). The only one who has trouble getting reelected is Eni, hence the help.

And so it goes.

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