Friday, March 21, 2008

Faleomavaega Knuckles Under to Miller, Kennedy

Before everyone scurried out of Washington for Easter recess, Delegate Faleomavaega switched his position on another minimum wage hike in American Samoa in what can only be described as an effort to curry favor with two powerful members of Congress: Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA). The two men, who chair the the committees that oversee wage legislation in their respective chambers, co-wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on March 14 saying her department's study of the potential effects of additional wage raises in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas provided insufficient justification to halt the increase scheduled to go into effect in May in the two territories.

Only two weeks earlier, Faleomavaega was the lead witness in a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee (which has jurisdiction over territorial issues), in which he testified in favor of a bill to halt such an increase. At the conclusion of the hearing, a sympathetic Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) promised to do all he could to pass legislation to freeze the minimum wage at the current level.

It would come as no surprise if Bingaman felt betrayed by Faleomavaega's change of heart, which was guided no doubt by his fear of Kennedy's and especially Miller's power in Congress but it really should come as no surprise because this is at least Faleomavaega's fourth and perhaps fifth different position on the issue since it first arose over the 2006 Christmas holidays before Democrats took formal control of Congress.

Among others, American Samoa's tuna industry is likely to be furious at Faleomavaega's new position which he expressed in a letter to Governor Togiola transmitting a copy of the Kennedy/Miller letter to Chao. Saying "As indicated in their letters, the bottom line is we need more specific data and information before we put a hold on another 50-cent increase on our minimum wage."

This bombshell was dropped in time for the Thursday edition of Samoa News but not in time for any immediate reaction. Owing to the Easter holiday, the paper won't publish again until next Monday, leaving all those whose legs were cut out from under them time to stop the bleeding before reacting in public.

In the meantime, add one more crucial issue to the growing list of issue over which time grows shorter and shorter for Faleomavaega to demonstrate he can exercise any substantial influence. In the past, early in his career, he could argue he was too junior. In the middle of his congressional career, he could argue we was in the minority. Now he is a senior Member in the Majority and a subcommittee chairman. The time to produce has come or be exposed for the fraud so many insiders know he is.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks. You have really opened my eyes. If Eni should have influence with anyone, it should be George Miller and Nancy Pelosi but it is these two who threw him under a bus. Each time he has gamely crawled out, dusted himself off and repositioned himself on the minimum wage issue so as to divert attention from what really happened here. If he can't hold sway in THIS House of Representatives with his seniority and these two people holding the positions they do, then he can't hold sway anywhere. Going back and reading the earlier post on the sham wage hearing, it is not lost on me that while he took everyone else off to Western Samoa for a fun weekend, it was Miller's people who stayed behind to do more investigating on the wage issue. The Miller-Kennedy letter to Chao is clearly the result. If Eni had stayed home and tended to business, maybe he wouldn't have been blindsided again. Keep up the good reporting. It's an election year and the people need to know.

Philip Murphy said...

It will be no easy task convincing a Democratic-controlled Congress that minimum wage hikes are unnecessary. Dems LOVE wage hikes.

Natalie said...

Keep up the good work.