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Tuesday, July 19, 2005
THE AKAKA BILL
Star-Bulletin political reporter Richard Borreca is in Washington, D.C., to cover the Senate's actions on the Akaka Bill.
On the eve of a possible historic Senate vote, a look at the Akaka Bill's history, politics and chances.
MONDAYBattle over the bill
As politicians debate in Washington, D.C., opponents and supporters in Hawaii do battle over the native Hawaiian recognition bill.
A look at a native Hawaiian registration drive already under way and the confusion over gambling under the Akaka Bill.
Because of Senate rules, any senator can object to or hold a bill to stop it from reaching the floor for debate.
Inouye said that he and the bill's principal sponsor, Sen. Daniel Akaka, had reached agreement with the GOP majority to move the bill for a floor vote.
To do that, the Senate GOP drew a plan for the bill, but now Inouye says there has been a last-minute hitch.
"They drew it up; they drafted it and said, 'What do you think?'"
"I said, 'If this is what you have, I buy it,'" Inouye explained.
That agreement, according to Inouye, calls for Republican Arizona Sen. John Kyl, who had been an opponent of the measure and previously placed his own hold on the Akaka Bill, to be the manager.
Kyl would submit five amendments, and there would be two days of voting with a final vote in the Senate on the third day.
"However, you cannot commit every member. There are some who say, 'Man, I wasn't around then.' There is one person with a hold on it. He wants an amendment on it," Inouye said.
Inouye declined to name the other senator, but he said he hoped that the Democrats would be able to persuade the GOP to move the bill this week.
"If we can clear this up this week, I don't care when we start. We can start Thursday, if you want, and come back Friday and Monday. It's OK with me. If they want to do it just at night, fine," Inouye said.
Once an agreement has been reached, Inouye said, "I'm convinced we've got the votes."
Still to be decided, however, are the five amendments, some of which Inouye said would make the Hawaiian recognition bill meaningless.
"It is almost like saying you will have a Hawaiian entity with absolutely nothing," Inouye said, adding that he thought the Senate would not agree to all five proposed amendments.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department listed its own concerns about the bill, saying gambling should be strictly prohibited by any native Hawaiian government, the time for native Hawaiians to bring claims against the state or federal government should be limited and the military should still be able to use native Hawaiian land.
Hawaii's Republican Gov. Linda Lingle said she plans to spend much of today personally lobbying fellow Republicans.
"My No. 1 priority is to meet with people who will be voting on the Akaka Bill," Lingle said.
To that end, she hopes to be able to make a private pitch to the Senate's Republican caucus today.
Robert Klein, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs attorney and a former Hawaii Supreme Court justice, said he had not heard about a hold.
"I thought they had an agreement that the bill would come up before Aug. 7, and I thought we were past the time for people to put holds on it," Klein said.
Lingle's office did not return calls when asked to comment on the hold, and a spokeswoman for Akaka said they expected the bill to be debated tonight.
Earlier in the day, Lingle conceded that the fast-moving, behind-the-scenes action of Senate politics was at times baffling.
"This is quite a place. As I told state House Speaker (Calvin) Say before I left, 'I can barely figure you guys out. I certainly can't figure them out up here," Lingle said.