The defense spending bill that passed the House of Representatives Thursday includes proposed payments for Guamanians who were killed, raped, beaten or forced to work by Japanese occupiers during World War II.
That's half the legislative battle won in this Congress for Guam's decades-long efforts to seek wartime reparations.
The next step is for Guam to convince the U.S. Senate to agree, and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said she'd work on it.
The Senate will discuss the details of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2017 later this year.
Bordallo succeeded in convincing the House to allow her to include the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, which was a standalone bill, in the defense spending bill.
"It's time that we bring resolution to the people of Guam — all U.S. citizens — who suffered under enemy occupation during World War II," Bordallo said when she introduced the war reparations amendment.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, gave a short speech in the House supporting Bordallo's efforts.
"I appreciate the many contributions the Dear Lady from Guam has made to our committee as a ranking member on Readiness among other capacities. I think this is a good amendment and I certainly hope our members will support it," Thornberry said.
The defense spending bill also proposes $250 million for military construction projects in Guam and a streamlined process for H-2 foreign worker visa processing, in light of the anticipated increase in the number of construction jobs for defense projects on the island.
The amendment would implement recommendations of the Guam War Claims Review Commission and authorize the payment of claims for the survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II as well as the descendants of those who died as a result of the occupation, according to Bordallo's office.
The cost of the proposed reparations is still unknown.
The amendment does not add to federal spending, and proposes to offset of the cost with additional "Section 30" funding above fiscal 2014 levels that is received by Guam, according to Bordallo. Section 30 funds are withholding tax payments from federal personnel stationed on island, which are given to the government of Guam to spend.
Guam's previous congressional delegates, starting with Del. Ben Blaz in 1986, also tried to get Congress' approval for World War II-era war reparations.
In 2002, then-Del. Robert Underwood succeeded in getting Congress to approve the establishment of a Guam War Claims review commission. The commission subsequently proposed a $25,000 payment for each death and $12,000 for each rape, forced labor, forced march, or serious injury suffered by Chamorros as a result of the Japanese atrocities.
Guam is seeking payment from the U.S. government, rather than Japan, because the United States decades ago forgave Japan's war debts.
The U.S. Congress came close to approving war claims in 2009, when the Senate offered to pay war claims, but only to survivors of the war, and not their descendants. Bordallo at the time rejected the offer, saying she wanted descendants to be paid as well.
The potential tab to the U.S. government has become the major hurdle in past efforts for Guam war reparations
In 2006, a Guam war reparations bill was defeated, largely because of the its nearly $200 million price tag.
In 2007, Bordallo proposed a spending cap of $126 million, but that effort also was defeated.