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Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Senators expect
vote soon on
Akaka bill

An Indian Affairs report
and cost estimates must occur
before a floor vote

By Pat Omandam

Relatively quick passage of the native Hawaiian bill in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives has put pressure on the 100-member Senate to do the same.

With just eight working days left before Congress is scheduled to adjourn Oct. 6, Hawaii Sens. Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye said they expect a Senate floor vote soon on the bill that grants federal recognition to native Hawaiians.

Akaka, who finally returned to Washington, D.C., yesterday after spending most of the summer recovering from hip replacement surgery in Hawaii, said Senate leaders are waiting for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to file its report on the bill as well as for cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Both are expected this week, he said.

"These items are essential to moving the bill in the Senate," Akaka said.

"Sen. Inouye and I are considering all possible options to get this bill through the Senate and to the president's desk."

The House by a voice vote yesterday approved H.R. 4904, a companion bill to S. 2899, the Akaka bill.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said it took a lot of hard work, cooperation and feedback from throughout the community to gain bipartisan support for this legislation.

The bill enables Hawaiians to re-establish self-government, affirm the special trust relationship between Hawaiians and the federal government, and protect existing federal and state programs for Hawaiians.

Joint congressional hearings were held in Hawaii in late August, and most of the testimony received was in favor of the measure, although there was some outspoken opposition to it.

"This is a major step forward for Hawaiian self-determination," Abercrombie said.

Meanwhile, Akaka spokesman Paul Cardus said there was talk in Congress of possibly extending the session until Oct. 13.

Cardus said the House majority, which is controlled by Republicans, had talked about letting its members return home early to re-election campaigns but that many did not want to be on the campaign trail with unfinished business in Congress.

With Republicans holding just a handful of seats more than Democrats, House leaders want to avoid any criticism that it was a do-nothing session. Control of the House and Senate are important issues this election year, Cardus said.

"The leadership wants to have their members out there, but by the same token, you know they need to finish up the business, and I think a lame-duck session would not send the right message," Cardus said.

In 1990, a nonpresidential election year, Congress did not get out until late October. In previous presidential election years, they have gone out in early October, he said.

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