Obama would sign Akaka Bill as president
If elected president, Democratic hopeful Barack Obama says he would sign the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, better known as the Akaka Bill.
"Hawaii has always acknowledged and celebrated diversity, and an important part of Hawaii's culture is the native Hawaiian people," Obama, a 1979 Punahou graduate, said in a statement released yesterday by his campaign.
"For this reason, I am proud to support Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye in their efforts to extend the federal policy of self-governance and self-determination to native Hawaiians. ... This is an important bill, and if it is not signed into law this year, I will commit to supporting it as president."
The Akaka Bill would allow for the formation of a governing body for native Hawaiians, similar to that of American Indians, that would negotiate with state and federal governments over land and other resources.
President Bush has opposed the legislation. Last year the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement that Bush "has eschewed such divisive legislation as a matter of policy."
Before any president gets a chance to endorse it, the measure first has to make it out of Congress.
House and Senate versions of the bill remain alive, although there is no immediate action scheduled on either.
Two years ago, Akaka attempted to bring the bill to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote by the full chamber. The motion, known as cloture, fell four votes shy of the 60 needed to force a vote.
Both Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as Republican Sen. John McCain, voted in favor of the cloture motion.
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Hawaii, said she believes the former first lady would sign the Akaka Bill if given the chance as president.
Hanabusa noted that it was President Clinton who signed the 1993 "Apology Resolution" that acknowledged the 1893 overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii. The process for recognizing a native Hawaiian governing body is spelled out in that resolution.
Hanabusa said the Clinton administration's support for the resolution is indicative of the former first lady's support.
"It's not a matter of a hypothetical 'What would you do?'" Hanabusa said. "This is a matter of the record, and the record speaks for itself."