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Push for early action on sovereignty bill


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POSTED: Monday, December 29, 2008

HAWAIIAN sovereignty could be on an early agenda in the U.S. Senate after having been successfully filibustered by opponents two years ago. Democrats, all of whom support the bill, gained seats in the 2006 and 2008 elections and are likely to prevail on the issue in the upcoming congressional session, with President-elect Barack Obama agreeing to sign it into law.

The Senate voted 56-41 in June 2006 to proceed with a vote on the Akaka Bill itself, short of the 60 needed for cloture. Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with the party, were unanimous in voting for cloture and will have grown in the Senate from 45 to 58 from the past two elections, with the Minnesota case yet to be decided.

Success of the Akaka Bill seems all but assured. However, while 13 Republicans voted to move the bill forward in 2006, Arizona's two Republican senators—Jon Kyle and John McCain, both returning senators who opposed the bill—cast votes in favor of cloture by prior agreement. That deal no longer exists.

Of the other 11 Republicans who voted for cloture, five will be replaced by Democrats, further reducing the 13 GOP senators who voted for cloture in 2006 to six. That is more than offset by the replacement by Democrats of 10 Republicans who voted against cloture that year.

While short of a landslide, it should result in a comfortable victory, especially if Sens. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.V., and John Schumer, D-N.Y., decide to vote, which they failed to do two years ago. If past supporting votes are maintained, nothing should prevent Sen. Daniel Akaka from moving the bill to the Senate floor early in the session. The House should pass the bill easily, as it did last year.

Richard Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute, agrees but suggests Obama might not want to use any of his "capital" on the issue so early in his presidency. Little "capital" will be expended on a bill that has interest only in the president-elect's native state.