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Eni's committee bid: Voting rights, money are obstacles

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I have proudly served on the Committee since I was first elected to Congress in 1988, and I now have more seniority than any other returning Democratic member,” Cong. Faleomavaega Eni said about his bid to become ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Since 2006, I have served as Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.”

“At a time when the Obama Administration has made clear that U.S. foreign, economic and security policy must “pivot” toward Asia – a region that accounts for more than 60% of the world’s population – I believe I am the most experienced and qualified candidate for Ranking Member of the Committee.  I have established strong ties and personal relationships with key government officials, including Heads of State, business leaders, and civil society activists throughout the region, and am ready to address the numerous challenges— from human rights violations to nuclear proliferation— faced by the U.S. in this critical region.”

“If chosen as Ranking Member, I would also work very hard to maintain and strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, and one of my highest priorities – building on the outstanding work of outgoing Ranking Member Howard Berman – would be to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  In addition, I would fight to ensure that the State Department and USAID receive adequate funding for diplomacy and development, work to strengthen the U.S. role in Latin America and Africa, and pursue other foreign policy priorities important to members of the Democratic Caucus.”

“Should I be successful in this bid, it would be the first time in the history of the U.S. Congress that an Asian-Pacific American would serve as Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Moreover, to my knowledge, my bid is unprecedented it that it will mark the first time in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives that a non-voting Delegate has ever had enough seniority to run for or serve as Ranking or Chairman of a full Committee.  This is also the first time American Samoa ever has had an opportunity like this since electing its first Delegate to Congress in 1981.”  

“Therefore, because of the historic nature of my bid, I felt it was imperative for me – no matter the outcome -- win, lose or draw -- to break down these barriers and run this race on behalf of the people of American Samoa, the some 18 million Asian-Pacific Americans who make up this great nation of ours, as well all Delegates who serve or will serve in the U.S. Congress.”

“American Samoans have made an outsized sacrifice in defending our nation from WWII to every war since, with the Iraq war death rate per 1 million population almost as high for American Samoa as for the ten highest states combined.  I, too, have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and the sons and daughters from D.C. and the other U.S. territories, including Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, CNMI, and Puerto Rico, have also made outsized sacrifices in defense of our country and, as such, I believe this – above all else— qualifies us for full-voting rights on the House Floor.”

“Unfortunately, because I do not have full voting rights on the House floor, my bid for Ranking Member will be an uphill climb.  It will also be an uphill climb for me to raise the kind of funds the Democratic Party expects a Ranking Member or Chairman to contribute to the Party, which can amount to as much as $300,000 or more every election cycle.  The people of American Samoa have a per capita income of about $8,000 per year, by far probably the lowest in the United States, which makes it very difficult for me to compete against others who represent wealthier constituencies.”

“Given these serious obstacles, I have no illusions about this race or the mainstream media coverage of this race or that some Members of Congress will stand with the establishment rather than a minority facing an uphill climb.  However, I will do my best to run a race that centers on freedom and equality and, if nothing else, I hope my bid establishes a precedent whereby all Delegates can participate more fully,” Faleomavaega concluded.