February 29, 2024

Manchin Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Senate Leadership to Move Compacts of Free Association Forward

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee and a broad bipartisan group of prominent Senators, urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), to support legislation to renew the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.

The United States’ relationship with our partners in the Freely Associated States are critical to U.S. national security. The COFA legislation is the result of year-long bipartisan negotiations across eight primary committees with equities in the House and Senate. This legislation will protect U.S. geopolitical interests in the Pacific for the next 20 years and block the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to expand its influence in the region. 

The letter is also signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Boozman (R-AR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The full letter is available below or here.

Dear Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Chair Murray and Ranking Member Collins:

We write in support of legislation to renew the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, including in any legislative vehicle.

Our COFA partnerships are critical to U.S. national security. Failure to pass the renegotiated Compacts as soon as possible imperils our relationships with the Freely Associated States and the entire Pacific Island region, who view the COFA as a barometer of the U.S. commitment to the region. They ensure that we, rather than a nation hostile to U.S. interests, maintain strategic control of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is engaged in active efforts to undermine Pacific Island nations’ confidence in the United States. Failure to act on COFA opens the door to more corrupting influence and funding by the PRC in the region. The PRC is pursuing military basing and policing agreements in the region and working to undermine recognition of Taiwan, and exerting corrupting influence in several other countries. Without the COFA agreements, these trends would accelerate.

These unique bilateral agreements are the product of nearly four years of negotiations under two Presidential Administrations, and year-long negotiations across eight primary committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate and multiple others. The resulting bicameral, bipartisan legislation will secure U.S. national security in the Indo-Pacific for the next two decades.

We ask for your support in moving the COFA package forward with the urgency it requires. Thank you for your attention to this matter.