Optimism, patience needed for Akaka Bill
A U.S. Senate committee plans to hear testimony Thursday on a bill to grant Hawaiian sovereignty.
HAWAII's congressional delegation is moving ahead to seek enactment of Hawaiian sovereignty but should not be optimistic. Even if Congress approves the Akaka Bill, President Bush has given every indication that he will veto it, so Hawaiian parity with American Indian tribes may have to wait for the next administration.
Senate opponents of the bill filibustered it last year, and the 56-41 vote fell four votes short of the 60 needed to gain final consideration. The House voted 262-162 last month in favor of a bill for federal funding of Hawaiian housing projects, short of the two-thirds needed for passage under a special House procedure.
Those votes indicate that the two-thirds vote needed to override a presidential veto is lacking in both chambers, even though Democrats have gained control of the Senate. On the eve of last year's Senate vote, the Bush administration made clear in a letter to the Republican Senate leadership that it opposes the Akaka Bill because it would "divide people by their race."
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is set to hear testimony about the bill Thursday. Both Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye are members of the committee, which is expected to swiftly send it to the Senate.
The push for enactment of the legislation in the current session will not be wasted. The debate should further educate members of Congress about the need for federal recognition of native Hawaiians.
Akaka said he remains "optimistic about finally providing parity between native Hawaiians and our country's other indigenous people that is long overdue." His optimism is warranted, but not until the next president takes office.
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