75.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesDeJongh Reports Headway and Allies from D.C. Trip

DeJongh Reports Headway and Allies from D.C. Trip

After a whirlwind tour stumping through the halls of Congress this week, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said he emerged confident that the U.S. Virgin Islands got a fair hearing on key issues, such as the draft constitution, rum revenues and health care reform.
“This has really put us on a pathway to parity as far as receiving Medicare funding,” deJongh said enthusiastically late Thursday by telephone from Washington, speaking of the final version of the health care reform bill presented by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier that afternoon.
While deJongh said the issue of healthcare was “uppermost on the minds” of most Congressmen and women he met with since he arrived Tuesday, he said the reason for his trip was primarily to testify Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, which reviewed the proposed V.I. constitution.
He said the committee members seemed to share his concerns about possible legal challenges that might be thrown at the constitution if it was sent back to Virgin Islanders and ratified. But, deJongh said, he believed they understood that the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands “ought to write our constitution and have the opportunity to vote on it” without amendments or changes from Congress.
The “dilemma” Congress faced, he said, was how to maintain the integrity of the document and still voice their concerns for the record.
“I think they see the value in letting the Virgin Islanders vote on it,” he said.
DeJongh maintained his very public position that, as drafted with special considerations for native Virgins Islanders and ancestral Virgin Islanders, “ultimately they [the people] will vote it down” and create a constitution that is “much more representative and that much more affords equal access and equal rights to everyone.”
Thrilled over what appeared to be the final version of proposed health care reform bill presented by the House Thursday, deJongh said the legislation would deliver more than $300 million to the territory over the next nine years, up to $40 million of which the territory could use for the uninsured – “those who do not qualify for Medicaid,” he said.
“It really begins to create a pathway to parity for the V.I. healthcare,” deJongh said, adding that the legislation would effectively and finally lift the notorious Medicaid cap.
DeJongh acknowledged the possibility of Republican opposition as the process advances.
The House is expected to pass the current version in the next few days before sending it back to the Senate, which can then affirm it and forward it to the White House. A parliamentary provision called “reconciliation” could allow the Senate to approve the bill with a simple majority without the threat of filibuster.
While mucking around on Capitol Hill, deJongh said he was also busy presenting the territory’s position in the so-called “rum war” with Puerto Rico.
He said as more and more in Congress get beneath the surface of attacks and “sound bites” by Puerto Rico, they have come to understand that “Puerto Rico is clearly undermining our agreement,” referring to the deal with Fortune Brands and liquor maker Diageo to set up shop in the territory with the help of millions of dollars in subsidies provided by anticipated federal rebates on rum sales.
After many meetings with senators and interviews with wonky Washington publications, including The Hill and Roll Call, deJongh said more and more influential people in Washington are starting to understand that the territory has and will follow the “intent of Congress to use those revenues for our government programs.”
“We have a range of support,” he said.
DeJongh returns to the territory on Friday.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.