Akaka Bill's chances improve in Congress
Sen. Daniel Akaka again has introduced a bill that would grant Hawaiians federal recognition as a sovereign nation.
SEN. Daniel Akaka has good reason to be optimistic about Senate approval of his bill granting federal recognition to a Hawaiian government
. Questions remain about sentiment in the House and the ability to override a potential veto by President Bush, but the attempt is worthwhile.
Proponents of the bill fell four votes short in June of reaching the 60 votes needed for cloture to break a filibuster and bring the Akaka Bill to a Senate vote on its substance. All Senate Democrats voted for cloture, and their numbers, including an independent, have risen since then from 45 to 51. All 13 of the Republicans who voted for cloture are back, although they include chief opponent Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, who had agreed to stop blocking it from consideration.
The Senate's new makeup should overcome any attempted filibuster. The bill never has been put to a recorded vote in the House, which has been more socially conservative than the Senate in recent years.
The Bush administration stated its opposition to the bill on the eve of last year's Senate vote, maintaining that it would "divide people by their race." Although the bill would limit membership in the sovereign nation to those who can trace their ancestry in the islands prior to Captain James Cook's arrival in 1778, Congress has broad authority to decide the characteristics of sovereignty.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie suggested before last year's election that the Akaka Bill be changed by extending membership in the sovereign nation to all people who can trace their lineage to anyone living in Hawaii at the time of the 1893 overthrow. The bill's opponents point out that the Hawaiian monarchy at that time was multiracial.
Such a change would anger many Hawaiians, even though few non-Hawaiians are able to claim Hawaii lineage to 1893 because of cross-racial marriages. Such a change in the bill should be considered only as a last resort.
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