Path clear for
vote on Akaka bill

Passage of the bill that would federally
recognize Hawaiians is called "inevitable"

The U.S. Senate will vote by next August on the long-stalled Akaka bill granting formal federal recognition for native Hawaiians after key Republican opponents agreed not to block the bill, Sen. Daniel Akaka says.

After meeting with Sen. Daniel Inouye and Akaka, Republican opponents Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Pete Domenici, R, N.M., promised they would drop their attempt to block the native Hawaiian sovereignty measure.

"I feel good about the commitment made today that we will no longer endure the procedural shenanigans that have prevented the Senate's consideration of this bill for the past five years," Akaka said yesterday.

The move by Kyl and Domenici will clear the Akaka bill for a Senate vote by August.

The bill, according to Inouye, has the votes to pass the Senate. The measure is also expected to clear the U.S. House, leaving approval by the White House as the final question.

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry announced his support for the bill.

President Bush has not commented on the Akaka bill, but Micah Kane, director of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, said Bush is expected to approve it.

"I would say that Bush would sign the bill," Kane said.

Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, noted that Bush "has not expressed opposition."

"When he was here he recognized the contributions made by Hawaiians, but his position is not as clear-cut as Sen. Kerry's," Apoliona said.

She called passage of the Akaka bill "inevitable."

Kane said the logic of the agreement "is a little hard to understand."

"This is a little bit of a disappointment," Kane said, adding he had hoped the bill would come for a vote this year.

"The governor has gone up to Washington three times and I've gone up five times and it is the No. 1 issue that we have conveyed," Kane said.

According to Akaka's staff, the bill was cleared for a vote after Inouye considered including the Akaka bill with a series of energy-related bills, including ones supported by Kyl.

The Inouye attachment was likely to kill the bills that Kyl wanted, so Domenici was able to broker a deal for Inouye to drop the Akaka bill this year in return for a promise to put the bill up for a vote next year.

"I am pleased by the agreement we have reached, and I look forward to a full and robust debate in the United States Senate on this important bill, which, I believe, has much support from my colleagues in the 108th Congress," Inouye said.



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