September floor vote
The U.S. Senate will not vote on a native Hawaiian recognition bill until September, acknowledged Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka after pushing for a vote the past two weeks.
In an interview yesterday, Democrat Akaka said he was still waiting for Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist to file a motion of cloture to bring the so-called Akaka Bill to the floor for a vote.
Timing for a cloture motion is running out. Akaka said that if the motion is filed today, it would not be discussed until the Senate's return from its August recess after Labor Day.
Akaka has been unable to speed up debate on the bill. A group of six senators have placed holds on the bill, which stops it from coming to the floor for a vote. To go around the holds, Akaka has had to resort to the cloture motion.
After meeting with Frist yesterday, Akaka said he had a new promise.
"I thought he was going to do it Tuesday or Wednesday, and he didn't do it and here it is Thursday.
"I asked him, 'Are you planning on doing it?' and he said before we break for the August recess, he is going to file the motion," Akaka said.
The next step would then be for Akaka to persuade 60 senators to go along with the cloture motion and allow debate on the bill.
Debate would be for 30 hours, and then a final vote on the bill would be held. The bill would then go to the House.
Akaka has said he is sure the bill has 51 senators who support it, and also thinks he will be able to muster the 60 votes needed.
Akaka figures the month of August will give him extra time to lobby other senators and also conclude negotiations between the Justice Department, the White House and supporters.
In Hawaii, Gov. Linda Lingle, who also supports the bill, said she expects the bill will move in September.
"I am fairly optimistic that a vote will take place in September and we will have the votes to pass it," Lingle said.
After spending time last week in Washington personally lobbying the bill in the Senate, Lingle says she is expecting Akaka and Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel Inouye to continue pushing.
"I am not that experienced with how the Senate operates. Sens. Akaka and Inouye sort of feel this is the normal process of things. They don't seem too surprised by any of it.
"I think September is a good time. It gives us this month to talk to people about the information that has come out about this bill," Lingle said.
Observers such as Davianna McGregor, University of Hawaii professor of ethnic studies, say the Akaka Bill has become caught up in a national effort to challenge the rights of American Indians and Alaska natives.
The bill would define a process for the federal government to recognize a native Hawaiian government.
"The education effort has to be aimed at those senators who are uninformed or are on the borderline," McGregor said.
A supporter of the Akaka Bill, Charles Maxwell, said he has been working on a Hawaiian reparations measure since 1970.
"The senators in Washington don't get it; they just don't get it," Maxwell said.
Opponents of the bill in Washington say they have concerns about native Hawaiians being able to operate casinos either in Hawaii or on the mainland on land purchased by a native Hawaiian nation.