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Public Statements

Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

COMPACT OF FREE ASSOCIATION AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2003

Mr. BINGAMAN. As transmitted by the administration, the joint resolution approving the amended compacts would have eliminated FEMA and replaced it with the U.S. AID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, OFDA. However, during consideration of this joint resolution by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee recommended reinstatement of FEMA's availability.

Mr. DOMENICI. That is correct. In the final days before approval of the compacts, FEMA has transmitted a revised proposal regarding disaster assistance that would involve both FEMA and OFDA. This new proposal, coming at such a late stage in the process, has not been shared with the FSM and RMI. Indeed, it is my understanding that there are a number of questions about how the new proposal would work. Nevertheless, the concept appears sound and staff from the committee have worked with our colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee to craft a compromise.

Mr. INHOFE. That is correct. Our staffs have been working for the past few months on this issue. The compromise we have reached would continue the FEMA program in the islands for the next 5 years, as recommended by the Energy Committee. In addition, the Secretary of State would be directed to immediately undertake negotiations, in consultation with FEMA, with the governments of the FSM and RMI regarding disaster assistance. Finally, if an agreement is not concluded and legislation is not enacted which reflects the new agreement within 5 years, then the administration's revised disaster assistance proposal would go into effect.

Mr. JEFFORDS. That is correct. The compromise also directs the administration to report to Congress by June 30, 2004, on the outcome of such negotiations.

Mr. BINGAMAN. Yes. We hope and expect that an agreement will be concluded and transmitted by next June 30 and do not believe it should take the full 5 years.

Mr. DOMENICI. That is right. The Committees expect that FEMA, the administration, and the island governments will engage in such negotiations expeditiously and in good faith. Depending on the progress made by June 30, 2004, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee may hold an oversight hearing on the matter.

Mr. INHOFE. I agree with this approach.

Mr. JEFFORDS. As do I.

Mr. DOMENICI. I thank my colleagues for their support and for their cooperation in reaching this agreement.

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