Washington Rep Pete A. Tenorio invited the House and Senate members to host a breakfast meeting with Chairwoman Donna Christensen and her entourage this morning. We were asked to arrive early so that the meeting could begin promptly at 7:30 a.m. I arrived a few minutes before 7:30 expecting a roomful of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people. But, nope. Only the Speaker and a few lawmakers were there. This gave me a chance to get settled in, grab a hot cup of java and find a seat. I settled on a table with the House legal counsel and the lone representative from Rota, Rep. Chris Ogo, when I heard a slight commotion.
As I looked towards the door, I noticed that the DC contingency had arrived. I saw Speaker Oscar Babauta speaking with Chairwoman Donna Christensen. I walked over to them and waited for an appropriate moment to introduce myself. My initial impression of Chairwoman Christensen is that she's a serious woman who's here to do a job and she's going to make sure she gets the job done.
I gazed over at the rest of the staff who came in behind her. Some looked familiar; others didn't. I'd met some of them during their trip here a few months ago. I recalled meeting and sitting next to a very down-to-earth lady with a friendly face. She introduced herself as Anne Fischer. It turns out she is a JAG Navy Commander sent to escort the group then and now. I've always said that I could sense people's vibes and can tell within minutes of my meeting that person if we're going to be fast friends or mere acquaintances. Anne and I clicked right away. We chatted away over our bento lunches when we met months ago and we greeted each other warmly when we saw each other again this morning.
The next person I met was Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo of Guam. This was the first time we met, and I was surprised when she made mention of my being the "only woman" in the House of Representatives. I didn't expect her to notice, but she knew of this small piece of trivia. Congresswoman Bordallo greeted me with a warm hug and gave me the impression that she was happy to be in the CNMI. I picked up the same good vibes from her as I described above.
On my way back to my table, I ran into Senator Maria Frica Pangelinan. After chatting briefly, she and I decided to join Representative Arnold Palacios at a nearby table. As we sat chatting, Tony Babauta, the lead staff from Chairwoman Christensen's staff, came up to me and invited us to join their table. Seated at the table were Speaker Babauta, Chairwoman Christensen, and Congresswoman Bordallo. I took the seat right next to Congresswoman Bordallo, who was a delight to chat with.
Speaker Babauta gave his opening remarks and introduced all the House members. I always cringe a bit when he introduces me..."And, now, I'd like to introduce our one and only woman in the House, Representative Cinta Kaipat...." Yes, I'm the only woman out of 18 House members, but I don't want the extra attention. He made a few short remarks before turning the mike over to Senate President Joseph Mendiola.
Senator Mendiola introduced the Senate members who were present, and made the same fuss over Senator Maria Frica Pangelinan also being the lone woman in the Senate. Senator Mendiola spoke about the House Bill and the need to take into account what it would mean to overwhelm the Commonwealth with foreign workers and their dependents (spouse and child) which, by his estimation, could mean an influx of 40,000 people into the CNMI. I saw Chairwoman Christensen taking notes on her yellow notepad. After Senator Mendiola finished, they asked if anyone else had anything to say. I looked around, no one had their hand up, so I raised mine. I figured that this was going to be my only chance to say my piece in front of this group, so I may as well make the most of it.
I will tell you what I said in an upcoming post.