DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, left, triumphantly joined hands Tuesday night with U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, right, and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. CLICK FOR LARGE
Democrats steer Congress
Freshly empowered Inouye urges bipartisan progress
Hawaii's senior U.S. senator, Dan Inouye, heads back to Washington, D.C., today, urging bipartisan cooperation as he takes over two powerful Senate panels.
Inouye will assumed the chairmanship of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the defense subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee as the Democrats take control of the House and Senate.
The commerce committee handles all federal legislation dealing with banking, communications, transportation, the Internet and science.
At the same time, Inouye said the sudden resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary shows that the administration of President Bush will change its policies regarding the Iraq war.
Inouye urged Democrats and Republicans in Washington to end the bitter political fighting of the election.
"I am hoping that we will be able to sit with the executive office and discuss the matter in an adult fashion. I don't think this kind of a policy change can be rammed down anyone's throat," Inouye said during a news conference at his Honolulu office.
Inouye urged Bush to discuss with "the international community" some way to "officially test the waters in Iraq" and survey the war-torn nation to see if "the people want us there or want us out."
But Inouye added the United States cannot just leave Iraq immediately.
"We would have to leave in such a way that does not create chaos," he said. "We would have to do so in a honorable fashion with the assistance of neighboring countries and our European friends because our prestige is on the line."
Inouye suggested that if U.S. troops were to leave Iraq, they might withdraw to Kuwait and Bahrain.
On the domestic front, Inouye urged colleagues to get to work to pass a series of federal appropriations bills "and then get out of town."
Because Congress will still be in control of the GOP during the winter lame duck session, Inouye said Congress should avoid controversial issues.
"If we stick around and take up stem cell research, minimum wage and anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, then the wounds that have been exposed during the campaign will just fester," Inouye said.
He has said fellow U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka could step up and become chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Akaka, 82, also will move up in seniority. Before this year's elections, he was 19th among 44 Democrats.
Inouye, 82, is now third in seniority in the U.S. Senate, behind West Virginia's Robert Byrd and Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the ranking Democrat on the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. The shift in the power of the U.S. House means that Abercrombie will play a larger role in how military aid is spent.