Prepare for a battle to pass Akaka Bill
A U.S. House committee has sent the Hawaiian sovereignty bill to the House floor.
SEN. Daniel Akaka's bill to grant federal recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty appears headed for votes in both chambers of Congress
, but its destiny is less than certain. The Bush administration opposed the bill last year, and proponents again should prepare for a partisan battle in Congress.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie was beaming this week after the House Natural Resources Committee approved the Akaka Bill and sent it to the House floor, where he is confident of approval. Following a hearing yesterday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is expected to take similar action.
A recent move by the director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to appoint attorneys William Burgess and Paul Sullivan, staunch opponents of Hawaiian sovereignty, to the Hawaii advisory committee might be a sign of problems ahead for the bill.
The commission recommended in a report last May that Congress reject the Akaka Bill because it would "discriminate on the basis of race or national origin." The Hawaii advisory committee had "strongly" recommended approval of Hawaiian sovereignty in 2001.
The commission is unlikely to issue another report on sovereignty, so the significance of the appointments is unclear. The makeup of the commission itself has slightly* changed since last year's 5-2 vote in opposition. On March 1, Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd appointed Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, to fill a vacancy on the eight-commisioner panel that had existed at the time of the vote.*
The five opponents are all Republican appointees, while the two in favor of the bill -- Michael Yaki, who believes his Maui-born grandfather was part-Hawaiian, and Arlan Melendez, the commission's only American Indian -- are Democratic congressional appointees.
A Senate filibuster stopped the measure from final consideration last year. Its chance for success in the new Democratic Congress should become clear as it heads for floor votes.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
» A May 4 editorial on Page A14 incorrectly stated that the makeup of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had not changed since last year's 5-2 vote in opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty. On March 1, Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd appointed Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, to fill a vacancy on the eight-commisioner panel that had existed at the time of the vote.
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