Fastest calculator in the Senate
ONCE AGAIN I was reminded of Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye's rule of 40 percent.
In explaining how he thinks about legislation and dealing with fellow members of the Senate, Inouye once explained that if presented with the choice of getting either 40 percent of what he wanted or nothing, he would gladly take the 40 percent.
He explained that sometimes winning just takes a little longer.
For instance, if you are starting out a six-year term in the Senate and have your eyes on a $100 million appropriation, it might be best to nibble at it, instead of attempting to seize the whole amount in one grab.
If you took $40 million the first year, and kept chewing away in 40 percent chunks, after six years you would have gotten $95.3 million out of your $100 million, and few would not say that was a good piece of work.
So when Inouye sent out a press release Friday regarding the licking Democrats took over the supplemental appropriations bill for the Iraq war, I was not surprised that he had found a $38 million silver lining for Hawaii.
The bill itself, is what President Bush wanted, not what the Democrats who control Congress had wanted, which was a clear timetable to wind down the Iraq war. Instead, Bush got $95 billion for the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $6 billion for hurricane relief and billions more stapled on for other projects.
"The emergency supplemental appropriations bill deserved my support because it benefits Hawaii," Inouye said.
Inouye acknowledged that "Congress was unable to include the goal of having a flexible timetable for reducing our forces in Iraq."
That's a bitter sound bite to utter, because in large part the Democrats' congressional majorities are due to promising the American people that they would bring the troops home if elected.
Nevertheless, Inouye found a way to get a 40 percent victory out of the funding bill.
The state and Hawaii County will get $35.7 million in reimbursements for disaster relief they provided after the October earthquake on the Big Island. And Maui will get another $3.1 million to repair the Honoapiilani Highway.
The emergency funding bill even reached into the Kohala back country with $2.2 million to repair blocked water tunnels and flumes.
And finally, somehow the funding bill also includes "corrective language allowing Hawaiian Airlines and three other air carriers to be treated more equally as it relates to other airlines in terms of pension payments." Inouye said the change will give Hawaiian 10 years to pay off unfunded liabilities and use a lower interest rate to calculate plan contributions. He estimated it would save Hawaiian millions.
If nothing else, it also shows that Inouye's calculator goes to 40 percent faster than most.