What happens if Democrats actually win?
WHAT IF the Democrats win, and what if Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Sen. Dan Akaka return to Washington?
While hypothetical questions might be off limits to most politicians, the "What if" question is a staple of political writers, including this one.
Back in 1994, the Republicans won control of both congressional chambers, the first time the GOP was in charge since 1954.
Hawaii Democrats Abercrombie and Akaka, who had attained their current posts just a few years earlier, have spent most of their days in the minority.
Abercrombie and Akaka live political lives that are much defined by what the Republican leadership would have. Their bills move only with tacit GOP approval, their ability to affect legislation rests on how much time Republicans have for them, and nobody is asking Akaka and Abercrombie what is happening in the majority caucus room.
The best example of all that is the failed, and now mostly dead, Akaka Bill, which would provide a starting place for Hawaiian sovereignty. Before the vote that iceboxed the bill, Akaka was reduced to hanging out on the Senate floor hoping to get a word with Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., just to find out when and if his bill would get a vote.
Today, three weeks away from the general election, it appears that the Republicans will not be calling the majority caucus room home in January. Nearly all the speculation from Washington is on the profound changes in the national voting mood. Since September, insiders surveyed by the National Journal have gone from saying the Democrats had a 37 percent chance of taking over the House to now saying the GOP is 60 percent likely to lose control.
Abercrombie and Akaka are likely to benefit significantly if the Democrats win.
The House pecking order is a bit confusing to predict because under the GOP leaders, some members were picked for leadership positions without regard to seniority, but Democrats are indicating that they would return to a straight seniority system. If so, Abercrombie is likely to be heading a subcommittee. Speculation is that because of his years with the Armed Services Committee, Abercrombie could be in charge of a subcommittee overseeing the Army and the Marine Corps.
Akaka already is the ranking member on the Veterans Affairs subcommittee. If the Hawaii Democrat wins next month, and if Democrats win the Senate, Akaka could go from top minority member to chairman.
But there also is a chance that reorganization of either chamber would dictate new committees or assignments.
As for Hawaii's senior senator, Sen. Dan Inouye, who is third in overall seniority, being back in the majority will just mean even more people than usual saying, "Yes, Senator."
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com