Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Akaka bill inaction
frustrates Inouye

The senator puts the bill
recognizing native Hawaiians
on a defense measure

By Richard Borreca

Angry with continual congressional delays, Hawaii's senior senator, Daniel K. Inouye attempted to force the issue last week and push the Akaka bill that allows native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition, by attaching it to the defense appropriations bill.

Inouye said he knew the measure wasn't likely to succeed, but he wanted to make a point and find out who opposed the bill.

"This measure has been considered, reconsidered for four years. We have not had hours, but days of hearings. ... Every time it is reported out favorably, someone puts a hold on it, a secret hold -- that's the way it is done around here," Inouye complained yesterday.

"I will tell you, out of a little anger I said, 'OK, I will put it (Akaka bill) on the bill,'" Inouye said. "Frankly it is not the way I usually do business. I knew it would not be germane."

As chairman of the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee, Inouye was able to have the defense bill amended, but as he noted "it survived until Friday."

That's when, on the Senate floor, the Akaka amendment was noted by Sen. John McCain (R, Arizona).

"How in the world do you justify, on a defense appropriations committee bill, a change in policy, a far-reaching change in policy regarding our treatment of native Hawaiians?" McCain asked.

Inouye said he already had checked with the Senate parliamentarian and knew the amendment was vulnerable. "I must tell you, when I put it in, I knew it was not according to the rules. But it was to make a point and to find out where the opposition was coming from."

Inouye said opposition came from two Republicans, but declined to name them.

"It would have been nice if it went flying through," Inouye added.

Although he wasn't able to move the Akaka bill during this session, Inouye said he has assurances that it will be put on the congressional calendar for the spring.

"I am convinced that the day will come when this will become a reality," Inouye said.

Supporters of the bill, including Honolulu attorney Beadie Dawson, said Inouye's amendment tactic didn't damage the measure's chances of eventual passage.

"I think when it gets a full debate in the spring it will be very healthy," Dawson said.

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