Isle delegation values membership in issue-oriented clubs
Members of Hawaii's congressional delegation have joined some very exclusive clubs focusing mostly on military, tourism and Asian issues.
The informal clubs, or caucuses, made up only of lawmakers, are active in Washington, each promoting their special causes behind the scenes. An Associated Press survey of Congress has identified more than 500 such clubs and their members.
Hawaii's members of Congress say they value the caucuses because they provide time for building relationships with other lawmakers while learning about the issues.
Rep. Ed Case is a charter member of the Center Aisle Caucus, which he says helps build bipartisanship in a divisive congressional environment.
"We enhance our strength, and we don't get isolated in a very polarized House," Case said. "We're able to influence collectively and moderate the outcome of the debate."
He is also a member of caucuses designed to fight methamphetamine use, build relationships with the Philippines, foster the arts, increase port security and work for Asian and Pacific Islander citizens.
Sen. Daniel Akaka uses caucuses as a way to meet with other members of Congress with whom he shares similar interests.
His list of more than a dozen caucus memberships touches on issues including technology, the military, alternate energy sources, homeland security, tourism and health. He was a founding member of the Senate Army Caucus in 2002.
"Given that we are at war, the Army caucus is quite active," Akaka said. "Through this caucus our discussions have led to a better understanding of how we can work with the Army to provide our soldiers with the best equipment, technology and infrastructure to defend our great nation."
Both Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Sen. Daniel Inouye were listed as members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, but their other caucus memberships were not disclosed. Akaka and Case are also members of that group.
"We try to assure that the segment of our community having to do with Asian-Pacific-American health care is adequately attended to," Case said. "Their needs shouldn't be lost in the mix of the Washington bureaucracy."