Fil Ams Lose Voice In U.S. Congress

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – He did not sign on for the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 after the Democrats inserted the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund for what he told this reporter that “we, Republicans, in my side of the aisle, could not support.”

But the two-term United States Representative Steve Austria had voted for most of the bills presented in the House that would push the interest of Filipinos or Filipino Americans every step of the way.

On Wednesday (Jan. 4), Laura Peed, Austria’s Communications Director in Washington, D.C., confirmed in an email to this reporter reports that 53-year-old Austria, the first, first-generation Filipino-American elected to the U.S. Congress “will not be seeking re-election in any district or running for a congressional seat this year.”

The confirmation of news that circulated during the Holidays was a big blow to the lobbyists for the passage of bills favoring Filipino- or Filipino-American causes, according to community activist Bobby M. Reyes, editor of online website,, in Los Angeles, California.

“Masakit itong balitang ito sa mga ka-Filipinohan” (this is a bad news for Filipinos), according to Reyes, who is harboring an ambition to run for governor in the 2013 local government elections in his home province in Sorsogon in the Philippines.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in one of her visits to Washington, D. C. had a face time with Mr. Austria in the Capitol Hill to court Austria’s support.

Ms. Peed said, “At this point, the Congressman’s focus is on serving out his full term until January 3, 2013 and continuing to advocate for the residents of the 7th Congressional District in Ohio. Mr. Austria is a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“After his term, the Congressman does intend to remain politically active, however, with regard to any future political plans, the Congressman has not had any discussion about those and will evaluate any opportunities that are presented to him after he has served his term this year.”


Mr. Austria contemplated to bow out from public service as a result of the new redistricting map, which the Ohio legislature changed at the last minute on Dec. 14 and divided his current 7th congressional district into three different districts, namely the 8th district, now occupied by his fellow Republican Speaker John A. Boehner, the 10th district (Dennis J. Kucinich (D) and 15th district (Steve R. Stivers (R). There is no term limit for running in a district for every two-year term.

Every ten years, for instance on Dec. 21, 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its official apportionment result for congressional representation, which also represents the U.S. Electoral College. That is, any state’s number of electors equals the size of its total congressional delegation.

On or before Jan. 25 of the year immediately following the decennial apportionment, each state government will report to the Clerk of the House of Representatives its entitled number of seats. Each state determines the boundaries of congressional district – geographical areas within the state of approximately equal population (initially an average of 30,000 from 1789–1793, now it has ballooned to 212,407 from 1913–1923).

During the re-districting, some states gain, in the case of Texas, four new districts, while other states gain two, like Florida, others gain one, like Arizona, others, like Illinois, lose one and still others lose two as in the case of New York and Ohio to keep within the average 435 districts across the union.

The final congressional map in Ohio created a new Democratic seat in Columbus, eliminating the long-standing history of the 7th Congressional District.

Congressman Austria said, “I share the same anger and frustration as the residents and voters of our region about the loss of the 7th Congressional District, but I want to thank each and every one of the eight counties (Clark, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Perry, Pickaway and Ross counties) in the current district for the honor of representing them.  “I have thoroughly enjoyed working on behalf of every one of my communities, both large and small, and regret that I will not be able to continue the work I have been truly committed to, due to the redrawing of the maps.”


Austria added, “Since the redistricting process began, it has been done in secrecy and with closed door deals.  I join my constituents, who are frustrated and disappointed about the new maps forced upon them and the fact that they didn’t have a voice in the process.  There have been multiple maps and multiple election dates, which have continued to change up until just 14 days ago.  The initial redistricting map included four of the eight counties in the 7th Congressional District and that is the map for which I filed the maximum number of signatures for earlier in December.”

Ms. Peed said, last month Congressman Austria offered House Resolution 505, which expressed condolences to the people of Philippines after the catastrophic flooding that took place in December in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.

When U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA-51st) introduced House Congressional Resolution 18, urging President Obama to authorize the return to the people of the Philippines the two church bells taken by the U.S. Army in 1901 from Balangiga to Wyoming as war trophies, Congressman Austria sponsored it.

When House version, H.R. 2387, of the Senate Bill 1244 known as Save Act was introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Dem.-HI) that “will provide preferential duty treatment to certain apparel articles of the Philippines in return for purchasing and using fabrics and yarns made in the U.S,” Austria co-sponsored it.

And when Rep. Laura Richardson (Dem.-CA-37) introduced Resolution 275, “Honoring the 113th Anniversary of the Independence of the Philippines,” Rep. Austria was its co-sponsor.

Steve Austria’s late father, Dr. Clemente Austria, is a native of Tiaong, Quezon in the Philippines.

Mr. Austria was privately criticized for not supporting the Filipino Veterans Equity bill although his father was a guerilla under Gen. Douglas Macarthur during World War II. But he told this reporter in an interview because the Filipino Veterans Equity bill was inserted in the Stimulus bill without the knowledge of his party mates, he did not support what became the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Barack Obama.

Steve Austria is the first first-generation Filipino American to be elected in the U.S. Congress. Both Representatives Bobby C. Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, and John Ensign, Jr., a Republican from Las Vegas, Nevada, are “30 percent Filipino-American” legislators. (

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