During the years 2000 through 2004, Congressional supporters and opponents of the Akaka bill flew below the radar, fighting through use of subtle parliamentary maneuvers rather than open conflict. In the House, Representative Abercrombie was able to pass the bill in 2000 (when nobody knew anything about it) by placing it on the calendar of non-controversial bills to be passed by unanimous consent on a voice vote under suspension of the rules at the dinner hour when only about ten Representatives were present on the floor. For four years thereafter, the bill was routinely passed out of committee but never came to a vote. In the Senate, Hawai’i Senator Inouye used his powerful position as chairman or ranking member of the military appropriations subcommittee to hide the Akaka bill in the form of a single sentence deep inside enormous appropriations bills, where Republican opponents then discovered it and forced its removal. Republican Senator Kyl successfully blocked the bill from coming to a vote on the floor by exercising a Senator’s privilege of placing a “hold” on it. During the 106th, 107th, and 108th Congresses (2000 to 2004) the blll never passed the Senate, but always came within a whisker of passing (by stealth) during the final few days of 2000, 2001, and 2004.
But in 2005 things will be very different, at least in the Senate. That’s because in 2004 Republican leaders in the Senate were forced to make an agreement to stop blocking the bill in 2005, in return for an agreement from Senators Inouye and Akaka to stop interfering with about two dozen important bills in 2004 by trying to insert the Akaka bill into them. Everyone expects there will be fireworks in 2005 in the Senate.
Because of expectations that 2005 will be a decisive year for the Akaka bill, substantial political maneuvering took place toward the end of 2004 and in January of 2005, before the bill was formally introduced in the Senate and House.
In Hawai’i, the leaders of the state legislature’s House of Representatives decided to create a new Committee on Hawaiian Affairs to handle all legislation focused on “Native Hawaiians” in order to be prepared for a smooth transition “when” the Akaka bill passes. Ethnic Hawaiian activist Representative Sol Kaho’ohalahala was designated to be Chairman of that committee (although he then resigned from the House before the House convened in order to accept a different position as Chairman of the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission).
Newly elected Illinois Senator Barack Obama (Democrat) spent about two weeks visiting family members in Hawai’i during the Christmas holidays. The Hawai’i Democrat Party hosted a fundraiser at which he was the featured speaker. Senator Obama grew up in Hawai’i, and maintains close ties with family members here. Hawai’i politicians are calling Obama “Hawai’i’s third Senator” and expect him to support the Akaka bill and other legislation pushed by Senators Akaka and Inouye.
As the United States Senate was just about to convene in Washington, Senator John McCain (R, AZ) announced he opposes the Akaka bill. His opposition is important because he is the new Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, replacing Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell who retired. Senator Campbell had favored the bill. A committee chairman can sidetrack or kill a bill without even bringing it to a vote. Thus there was great consternation among Akaka bill supporters, who wondered whether Senator McCain would block the bill despite the agreement from 2004 by other Republican leaders who pledged not to do so. In the end, Senator McCain said he would not block the bill if the committee members decide to support it.
All these events took place before the Akaka bill was formally introduced in Congress. Below are the news reports about them, along with links to the history of the Akaka bill from previous years.
CREATION OF NEW “COMMITTEE ON HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS” IN THE STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The Legislature of the State of Hawai'i runs from mid-January until early May. Preparations for the 2005 session began in December 2004 as leaders selected committee chairs and members. In the House of Representatives, a new committee was created in anticipation that the Hawaiian recognition bill would pass Congress early in 2005. Here's the newspaper article reporting the creation of the new committee.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 13, 2004 ** Excerpts **
News, notes and anecdotes on government and politics
House creates Hawaiians panel
The new committee will address the federal Akaka Bill
By Nelson Daranciang
State lawmakers are planning to place added emphasis on Hawaiian affairs when the Legislature convenes next month.
House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Kaimuki) finalized committee assignments this week for the upcoming session and created two new committees devoted to those issues. Previously, Hawaiian affairs was handled by the committee that also dealt with water and land use, and housing was included in the Human Services Committee's responsibilities.
Say said he created the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs in anticipation of the passage of the so-called Akaka Bill in Washington. The legislation would grant formal federal recognition of native Hawaiians.
The bill twice received approval in the U.S. House of Representatives [note from website editor Ken Conklin: that's an error: it only passed the House once, in year 2000, by voice vote under unanimous consent suspension of the rules on the calendar of non-controversial bills], but failed to get a vote in the Senate. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka said he has received assurances from key Republicans in the Senate that his bill will get a vote by August.
Rep. Sol Kahoohalahala (D, Lanai-Molokai) is chairman of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs.
NEWLY ELECTED ILLINOIS SENATOR BARACK OBAMA VISITS FAMILY IN HAWAI’I AND IS CALLED HAWAI’I’S THIRD SENATOR
The Honolulu Advertiser, Friday, December 17, 2004, excerpts
Democrats call Obama Hawai'i's 'third senator'
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
The state's Democrats fawned over newly elected Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at a fund-raiser last night, proudly embracing him as Hawai'i's "third senator."
For his part, the Hawai'i-born civil rights attorney and lecturer-turned-political celebrity told reporters: "Obviously, my primary responsibility is to the people of Illinois who elected me, but there's no doubt that I'm going to be sympathetic to certain issues that face the Hawaiian Islands — the situation regarding Native Hawaiians, the situation regarding the environment and how that impacts the treasure that is Hawai'i."
Obama, a Punahou graduate, went from relative obscurity as an Illinois state senator to becoming one of the nation's most talked-about politicians this year on his way toward capturing a U.S. Senate seat last month.
Asked if he would support the so-called Akaka Bill, which would recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people with the right to self-determination, Obama said he is scheduled to meet with the bill's sponsor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, to discuss the proposal.
About 850 people attended the $100-a-ticket "A Night of Aloha With Sen. Barack Obama," scores of whom lined up to have their copies of his autobiography signed, take a picture with him or shake his hand. Proceeds from last night's fund-raiser were to be split between the Democratic Party of Hawai'i and Obama's Senate campaign committee.
During his remarks, Obama said he visits Hawai'i annually to see his grandmother and his sister and her family.
"The essence of Hawai'i has always been that we come from far and wide, that we come from different backgrounds and different faiths and different last names, and yet we come together as a single 'ohana because we believe in the fundamental commonality of people," Obama said. "We have a sense that beneath the surface of things, all of us share a common set of hopes, a common set of dreams and a common set of values. That's what the Islands have always been about."
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama's parents before he was born, was moved to tears while introducing him. In remarks before the speech, Abercrombie joked, "Hawai'i is the only state now with three senators."
It was a description that others, including Akaka, also used to describe Obama. "I like to think of him as a member of our delegation," said Akaka.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Friday, December 17, 2004, Excerpts
Obama pushes message of diversity
The senator-elect from Illinois credits success to his life in Hawaii
By Mary Vorsino
Addressing more than 500 Hawaii Democrats last night, U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama said he aims to take the messages of diversity and togetherness that he learned while growing up in the islands to Washington, D.C.
"No place else, perhaps, than the state of Hawaii could have provided me with the environment, the climate, in which I could not only grow, but also get a sense of being loved," Obama said at a fund-raiser held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
"There is no doubt that that residue of Hawaii will always stay with me, that it is part of my core and that what's best in me and what's best in my message is one that is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii," Obama said.
The Hawaii-born Obama overwhelmingly defeated Republican Alan Keyes in November's election for an Illinois Senate seat. He is the only African American in the Senate, and the third since Reconstruction.
"Barack is a kind of special person who is of Hawaii, educated here, has in his heart the culture of Hawaii and what Hawaii is all about," U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka told attendees before Obama's speech. "He reflects Hawaii and he reflects America."
Obama, a 1979 alumnus of Punahou School, was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He jumped onto the national stage earlier this year after delivering the keynote address at the National Democratic Convention in Boston, where he spoke of national unity.
Obama "brought the house down" at the convention, Akaka said. "I was so proud," he said. "I wasn't thinking of Illinois, I was thinking of Hawaii."
Many of Hawaii's top Democrats attended yesterday's function, including U.S. Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case, former Gov. George Ariyoshi, Senate President Robert Bunda and House Speaker Calvin Say. Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann also made an appearance.
Obama has been in the islands for about a week, visiting with family. His grandmother and sister live on Oahu. He said he plans to stay until after Christmas. This morning, he is expected to talk to Punahou School students. He is set to be sworn in as a senator on Jan. 4.
Earlier in the evening, Obama told reporters that he will speak with Akaka about the so-called Akaka Bill, which would give native Hawaiians federal recognition. He declined to say whether he would support it.
Obama stressed his constituency was in Illinois, but he said he would be "sympathetic to certain issues regarding the Hawaiian Islands," including helping native Hawaiians and the state's environment.
In his speech, Obama praised Hawaii's Democratic Party, calling it "one of the strongest ... in the entire country." He also spoke about the defeat for Democrats in the 2004 election, saying the party's members need to "adapt to new times."
"We cannot, will not and should not compromise those core values that make us Democrats," he added. "We continue to have to stand for those people who don't have a voice. ... There is a better day out there."
SENATOR MCCAIN (R, AZ) ANNOUNCES HIS OPPOSITION TO THE AKAKA BILL, CAUSING GREAT UNHAPPINESS AMONG AKAKA BILL SUPPORTERS IN HAWAI’I, FEARFUL BECAUSE MCCAIN IS THE NEW CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS
On Tuesday, January 4, 2005, the first full day of the new Congress, Senator McCain (R., AZ), the new Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, announced that he opposes the Akaka bill. This news was reported locally on Wednesday in the Kona and Hilo newspapers. But Honolulu’s two daily newspapers did not report Senator McCain’s decision, even in their “breaking news” on-line websites. Both Honolulu newspapers editorially support the Akaka bill, and might have been scrambling to check with the Hawaiian entitlements establishment (OHA, etc) to figure out how to spin the story. Late Thursday afternoon, Honolulu Advertiser published a “breaking news” story from Associated Press which explicitly credited Stephens media group and was almost entirely the same as the Hilo and Kona stories. Then Friday the Advertiser finally published a story with substantial new material; and Star-Bulletin also published a brief report. The Advertiser spin is very clear, as the first sentence begins: “Concern is mounting ...” Then on Sunday January 9, both the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin published editorials criticizing Senator McCain for opposing the Akaka bill. On Wednesday January 12 the Advertiser’s correspondent in Washington D.C. reported that Senator McCain will not block the bill from having a hearing. Also on Wednesday Advertiser columnist Shapiro took note of Governor Lingle’s failure to get support for the Akaka bill from either the Bush administration or Republican Senators, despite her many efforts to help the Bush administration over the pase two years (Shapiro’s column taunts Lingle and says it’s time for her to call in the favors she is owed).
West Hawaii Today (Kona), Wednesday January 5, 2005
Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hilo), Wednesday January 5, 2005
Sen. McCain opposes bill
Republican is new Indian affairs chairman
By Samantha Young
Stephens Media Group
Wednesday, January 5, 2005 8:14 AM HST
WASHINGTON -- A new Senate Indian affairs leader said Tuesday he plans to oppose legislation that would allow Native Hawaiians to seek federal recognition.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he is against efforts by Hawaii lawmakers to grant Native Hawaiians sovereignty similar to that afforded to Native Americans.
"When Hawaii became a state there was an implicit agreement at that time that Native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as Native Americans," McCain, the new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in an interview.
McCain's comments could be a problem for Hawaii senators who were planning to move their bill through McCain's committee to the Senate floor for a vote by August.
"This is news to me," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, when told of McCain's remarks.
"We'll have to talk to Senator McCain and see what happens," Akaka said. "I still intend to offer the bill."
Hawaii lawmakers said Tuesday they plan to reintroduce recognition legislation this month. The measure would create a process for Native Hawaiians to establish their own government and win federal recognition from the U.S. government.
"As a matter of history, I don't agree with (McCain)," said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii. "There was no wink and nod that if Hawaii was brought in as a state the Hawaiians would not be treated like other indigenous people."
Last December, Hawaii senators struck an agreement with Republican leaders to bring the bill to a floor vote before Aug. 7. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the bill should be allowed a vote after fellow Republicans had blocked the measure for several years with procedural tactics.
"We have the word of Senator Frist that he's going to do what he can," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, referring to Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Inouye gained a concession from Frist last year after he threatened to hold up a series of park bills if the federal recognition measure was not given consideration.
At the time, Republican leaders did not guarantee Hawaii lawmakers a vote on their bill, but said they would cooperate to get the measure to a vote.
Inouye said he would pursue the bill through McCain's committee despite hearing of his opposition. McCain took over as chairman from retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who had supported the bill.
"I'm going to try and do this according to the rules," Inouye said. He declined to say whether he would seek to bypass McCain if necessary.
Case said McCain should not "bottle up" the bill in the Indian Affairs Committee, based on the "straightforward" agreement secured by the Hawaii senators.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, who is in Washington this week with OHA administrator Clyde Namuo, said McCain isn't informed about Hawaiian history.
"I don't know why he would separate Hawaiians from other indigenous groups," Apoliona said. "We are prepared to walk through the history and brief him or his staff on our perspective."
McCain, who voted against legislation in 1993 apologizing to Hawaiians for the U.S. overthrow of the Hawaii kingdom, said he would prefer to increase funding for existing Native Hawaiian programs.
"I would be much more supportive if there was an increase in the budget which would reflect the needs of Native Hawaiians than take it from the federally recognized tribes," McCain said.
Honolulu Advertiser, breaking news (on-line)
Posted at 3:53 p.m., Thursday, January 6, 2005
This article was closely similar to the one above, and need not be copied here.
Honolulu Advertiser, Friday, January 7, 2005
McCain could block vote on Native Hawaiian bill
Advertiser Staff and News Services
Concern is mounting in Washington and among supporters of the Akaka bill here that the measure, which seeks to give Native Hawaiians federal recognition, faces serious opposition from the Republican senator now heading the committee considering it.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., this week told the Stephens Media Group's Washington bureau that he would rather increase money going to existing Native Hawaiian programs than extend Hawaiians a "nation-within-a-nation" status similar to that accorded Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
McCain left Washington after being sworn in and was unavailable for comment yesterday; Hawai'i Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka also could not be reached.
McCain spokeswoman Andrea Jones told The Advertiser yesterday that the federal recognition measure, known as the Akaka bill, is expected to be heard by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which McCain now heads as its chairman. "I'm sure there will be hearings on this and I'm sure there will be meetings about this," Jones said. "It is premature to be saying anything. He will talk to Sens. Akaka and Inouye, and there most likely will be hearings."
Noe Kalipi, deputy legislative director for Akaka, also told The Advertiser that the Hawai'i senators plan to meet with McCain. She emphasized that the senators have a written agreement with the GOP leadership that the Akaka bill would be brought to the floor for a vote no later than Aug. 7.
Responses from Hawai'i officials were worded cautiously but showed concern. Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that McCain did not mention his opposition to the bill when she spoke with him over lunch in November, while the senator was here to tape a television appearance at Pearl Harbor. The governor said she would try to meet with McCain when she travels to Washington in February to attend a National Governors Association meeting.
Clyde Namu'o, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, is in Washington and said OHA attorneys are checking into a legal barrier to federal recognition that McCain reportedly cited.
Specifically, McCain told a Stephens reporter that when Hawai'i attained statehood "there was an implicit agreement at that time that Native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as Native Americans."
Namu'o told The Advertiser that OHA attorneys have reviewed the statehood law and committee records and have not found evidence of such an agreement. "We think there are probably issues that Sen. McCain needs to be briefed on," he said.
Lingle and her advisers have said on other occasions that they believe they have had a role in keeping the Bush administration neutral on the bill, which has been quietly opposed by several Republicans since it was introduced in 2000.
McCain's colleague, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., had used the Senate's procedural rules to block the bill. Kyl described the bill in a 2003 letter to a constituent as a "recipe for permanent racial conflict."
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Friday, January 7, 2005
Lingle to talk to McCain about Akaka bill support
Gov. Linda Lingle says that when she travels to Washington, D.C., in February, she plans to talk to U.S. Sen. John McCain about his opposition to legislation that would allow native Hawaiians to seek federal recognition.
McCain, who took over yesterday as head of the Indian Affairs Committee, said rather than pass the Akaka bill, he would prefer to increase funding for existing native Hawaiian programs. "When Hawaii became a state, there was an implicit agreement at that time that native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as native Americans," McCain told Stephens Media Group's Washington bureau. "I would be much more supportive if there was an increase in the budget which would reflect the needs of native Hawaiians than take it from the federally recognized tribes," McCain said.
Lingle said, "I haven't talked to him about this, but he is certainly someone on my visit list in February." She will be attending the Bush inauguration later this month in Washington but will spend five days in Washington next month attending the annual National Governors Association conference.
Sen. Daniel Akaka said he was surprised by McCain's remarks and that he plans to talk to the Arizona Republican. Akaka said he still intends to reintroduce the bill.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, who was in Washington this week with OHA administrator Clyde Namuo, said McCain is not informed about Hawaiian history. "I don't know why he would separate Hawaiians from other indigenous groups," Apoliona said. "We are prepared to walk through the history and brief him or his staff on our perspective."
Office of the Governor www.hawaii.gov/gov/
U.S. Sen. John McCain mccain.senate.gov/
Office of Hawaiian Affairs www.oha.org
On Sunday January 9, 2005 (the day of the week for maximum circulation) both Honolulu newspapers editorialized against Senator McCain's opposition to the Akaka bill. Those editorials are copied below, following a commentary on each one
The Advertiser editorial focused on an apparent logical inconsistency in Senator McCain's position as reported in the newspapers. Senator McCain was reported to have said he objects to the granting of tribal sovereignty to ethnic Hawaiians, but McCain allegedly said he might be willing to support increased funding for government programs already in place that benefit ethnic Hawaiians. The Advertiser editorial points out that McCain misses the main reason for the Akaka bill, which is to protect those race-based programs against legal challenges that they are unconstitutional. The editorial says there's no point in appropriating more money to programs that the courts will find unconstitutional without the Akaka bill to protect them. But in raising that question, the Advertiser unwittingly demonstrates a powerful reason for opposing the Akaka bill -- that the bill is an attempt to subvert the U.S. Constitution to protect illegal race-based government programs. The racially exclusionary Hawaiians-only programs are indeed unconstitutional, and will eventually be dismantled by lawsuits against them (or by the political will of a citizenry increasingly opposed to them). The whole purpose of the Akaka bill is to do an end-run around the Constitution by allowing a racial group to masquerade as a phony Indian tribe and get federal recognition. The Akaka bill is an example of "affirmative action" gone berserk, where racial preferences lead to racially exclusionary government entitlements which then lead to powerful bureaucracies demanding the creation of an apartheid government to protect them against legal challenges. See:
Allowing ethnic Hawaiians to get federal recognition as an Indian tribe would set a precedent allowing other ethnic groups to do the same thing, especially when they can claim to be "indigenous." For example there is already a Chicano activist group of people of Mexican (Aztec) ancestry living in those states which were formerly part of Mexico (for example, California and Texas) who demand the right to secede from the United States and form a Nation of Aztlan. The group's name is MEChA: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan; and it came to public attention when California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante was "outed" as an active member of that organization during his campaign for Governor in the recall election won by Mr. Schwarzenegger. See:
The Star-Bulletin editorial focused on the October 11, 2004 agreement Senators Kyl and Frist had made with Senators Inouye and Akaka in which Kyl and Frist pledged to stop blocking the Akaka bill in 2005 and allow it to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote by August 7, 2005. Star-Bulletin says it would be contrary to the spirit of that agreement for Senator McCain to use his position as committee chairman to block the bill (even though McCain was not a party to that agreement). But Star-Bulletin fails to note that Senator Inouye already violated the spirit of that agreement last year, when he neglected to stop execution of a stealth maneuver already in place like a ticking time-bomb. On September 15, 2004, Inouye had already inserted section 516 inside S.2810, the Dept of Labor, Health and human Services, and Education, and related agencies Appropriations Act. The offending Akaka bill language was not removed as Inouye had pledged to do. The Akaka language was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee by Senate Report 108-345, read twice and placed on the calendar. The Akaka language then found its way to the conference committee in December reconciling differences between the Senate and House versions of the omnibus appropriations bill. The Akaka language was removed during conference only because the House conferees spotted it and refused to agree to it. For details of the agreement, and the violation of that agreement by failure to withdraw Section 516 from S.2810, scroll all the way to the bottom of the very lengthy history of the Akaka bill during the 108th Congress, at:
Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, January 9, 2005
More funding for Hawaiians no solution
The Hawaiian recognition bill before Congress has gained a powerful new opponent in Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
McCain, who has tangled with Hawai'i's representatives in Congress before, argues that it would make more sense to increase money for existing Native Hawaiian programs rather than go forward with some kind of "nation-within-a-nation" concept envisioned by the so-called Akaka bill.
On the surface, McCain's remarks appear to be a reasonable compromise. But they miss the fundamental point of the recognition bill: The measure is designed to forestall constitutional challenges to any and all Hawaiians-only programs on grounds they are racially biased.
The fact that no lawsuits have yet been filed against specific Native Hawaiian health or education programs does not mean they won't be in the future.
It won't do any good to pour new money into these programs if they are vulnerable to constitutional challenge.
McCain's remarks are important because he currently serves as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, a post once held by Hawai'i Sen. Dan Inouye. Any recognition measure must go through McCain's committee.
McCain, who counts a substantial number of Native American Indians among his constituents, may be concerned that formal federal recognition of Native Hawaiians would lead to a diversion of funds that now go to Indian tribes.
Hawai'i Sens. Inouye and Daniel Akaka have repeatedly assured that any funding for Native Hawaiians would come from new sources, not from the pot that now goes to help Indian tribes.
Gov. Linda Lingle, who campaigned in part on her promise to advance the cause of the Akaka bill with Republicans, says she hopes to meet with McCain when she travels to Washington next month.
Her first task should be to convince the Arizona senator that while his support for increased Native Hawaiian funding is welcome, it does nothing to resolve the legal and constitutional problems the Akaka bill hopes to resolve.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Sunday, January 9, 2005
Editorials [ OUR OPINION ]
McCain should refrain from blocking Akaka bill
New Senate Indian Affairs Chairman John McCain says he opposes the Hawaiian recognition bill.
SENATORS Inouye and Akaka achieved a major breakthrough last October when they maneuvered an agreement that seemed to assure removal of roadblocks and probable enactment of the Hawaiian sovereignty bill. However, Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the issue, now has voiced his opposition to the bill. Hawaii's senators and Governor Lingle now must persuade him to refrain from using his authority to strangle the bill in his committee.
The Akaka bill's chief antagonist had been Sen. Jon Kyl, whose anonymous hold on the bill prevented its consideration by the full Senate in its last session. When Akaka and Inouye offered the bill's text as an amendment to a bill dear to Kyl, McCain's fellow Arizona Republican agreed to drop his hold on the Akaka bill if they would withdraw the amendment. Kyl and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist agreed to bring the Akaka bill to the Senate floor no later than Aug. 7 of this year.
McCain, who took over chairmanship of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in the new session, told Stephens Media Group that he opposes the Akaka bill, maintaining that it would betray an understanding that went with Hawaii's statehood.
"When Hawaii became a state," McCain said, "there was an implicit agreement at that time that native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as native Americans." McCain was not in Congress in 1959 -- he had just begun his 22-year career as a naval aviator -- and he provided no documentation to support his revisionist understanding of the Hawaii Statehood Admissions Act. That is why he referred to the supposed agreement as "implicit."
"We are prepared to walk through the history and brief him or his staff on our perspective," said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Governor Lingle said she will put McCain on her "visit list" when she travels to Washington in February.
McCain said he would prefer an increase in the budget to "reflect the needs of native Hawaiians than take it from the federally recognized tribes." His statement displays ignorance of the Akaka bill's contents.
The bill specifies that Hawaiians will not compete with Indian tribes for dollars distributed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Instead, the benefits of Hawaiian recognition would be implemented by the Office of Native Hawaiian Affairs, a separate agency created by Congress last year within the Interior Department.
McCain did not say whether he will use his new position to block the Akaka bill's movement to the Senate floor. Such a tactic would be a rude undermining of the agreement made only three months ago by Kyl and Frist.
Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Akaka bill will get hearing and a vote, key senator says
By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — There will be hearings early this year and a Senate vote on federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, despite opposition to the bill by new Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.
A spokeswoman for the Arizona senator said yesterday that McCain's opposition to the measure known as the Akaka bill does not conflict with a promise made last year by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other leading Republicans to Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka that the proposed legislation would get an up-or-down vote in the Senate in 2005.
"There will be a committee vote," said Andrea Jones, McCain's spokeswoman.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is expected to endorse the bill, which would then lead to a full vote in the Senate. The committee unanimously supported the measure last year. The House easily passed the measure by voice vote last year. [note from Ken Conklin: The House did NOT pass the Akaka bill last year. The House Resources Committee, equivalent to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, did pass the bill to the floor, where it died.]
The Akaka bill would begin the process for Native Hawaiians to be recognized by the U.S. government as an indigenous people. It would establish the beginnings of a framework for Native Hawaiian governance. That government would then be empowered to negotiate with the United States and Hawai'i over the disposition of Native Hawaiian assets.
McCain spoke out against the Akaka bill late last week, catching Hawai'i Democrats Inouye and Akaka by surprise, along with many in the Native Hawaiian community.
The clarifying comments from McCain's office came after a meeting between McCain and Inouye late Monday when the committee chairman's position was discussed. Jones would not go into specifics of the conversation between the two powerful senators. Inouye's office did not respond to several requests for comment.
McCain, who also chaired the Indian Affairs Committee in 1995 and 1996, has stated his opposition to the Akaka bill on other occasions. He has said he believes it was implicit when Hawai'i became a state in 1959 that Native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as American Indians.
Neal Milner, a political-science professor at the University of Hawai'i, said it had appeared that McCain would take issue on principle.
"I always thought part of the strategy was to keep this bill under the radar screen," Milner said. "You are trying to convince legislators that you think it is important, but if it becomes an issue of serious principle it might become a much more contentious issue in the Senate. This is another step in reducing the visibility."
The news that McCain would not use Senate rules to block the measure from reaching the full chamber was received with some relief. Akaka and Inouye both have said they have the votes needed to pass the bill, otherwise known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.
"Good news!" said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. "Senator McCain is giving our issue the opportunity for fair debate and expression of the Congress."
Akaka, the bill's primary sponsor, was out of the country and could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Both Hawai'i senators have sought passage of the bill since 2000. But Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., used Senate rules to block the Akaka bill from a vote last year. Kyl and others in the Senate have voiced concerns that the bill would sanction race-based preferences, which they say would be unconstitutional.
Late last year, Inouye and Akaka secured promises from Frist, Kyl and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., then chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that the bill would get its day on the Senate floor before Aug. 7.
In a brief exchange on the Senate floor on Oct. 11, Kyl and Domenici pledged their efforts to ensure that the Akaka bill "would be considered by this body."
In return, Inouye and Akaka promised not to push for the bill's passage as a rider on a massive spending bill late last year and also support 32 bills pending in the energy committee. Those bills from Domenici's committee passed by voice vote Oct. 10.
Already, embryonic efforts involving hundreds of Native Hawaiians are under way to determine how they would go about creating that government, Apoliona said.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is sponsoring an effort — called Kau Inoa — to register Native Hawaiians so that they may take part in the recognition process. More than 10,000 Native Hawaiians have been registered so far.
There are more than 400,000 Native Hawaiians living on the Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. Mainland, according to statistics from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Other Hawaiian organizations have stepped up efforts to educate Native Hawaiians about self-governance.
On Monday, the Interior Department began advertising for a program analyst to staff the federal office of Native Hawaiian Relations within the U.S. Interior Department. The office — approved by the Senate last year — is expected to oversee the legal relationship between Native Hawaiians and the U.S. government. The move is an important first step in the recognition process.
Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday, January 12, 2005
It's time for Gov. Lingle to call in her chits
By David Shapiro
You'd think Gov. Linda Lingle had earned enough brownie points in national Republican politics by now that she'd be spared public embarrassment by her GOP mates.
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, blindsided the Hawai'i governor with news that he's inclined to block the Akaka bill to extend "nation-within-a-nation" status to Native Hawaiians, similar to what's accorded American Indians and Alaskan natives.
The surprised Lingle said she'd try to meet with McCain next month when she attends a governors' meeting in Washington, D.C.
Curiously, McCain's reservations on the bill Lingle has described as her top federal legislative priority didn't come up when the two lunched together in November during McCain's visit to Pearl Harbor.
Lingle, Hawai'i's first GOP governor in 40 years, has worked hard to ingratiate herself to the national party.
She traveled to Iraq for President Bush and became a vocal supporter of the war. She's embraced the GOP agenda at national governors' meetings and campaigned hard for Bush's reelection locally and on the Mainland — some say to the neglect of Hawai'i legislative races where Republicans lost five seats.
But she's gained little capital in lobbying for the Akaka bill, a vital step in settling Hawaiian sovereignty issues and protecting programs and institutions that benefit Hawaiians from legal challenges centered on race.
The measure is opposed by conservatives who see it as a race-based preference and GOP senators from states with large Indian populations, who fear loss of Indian funding to Hawaiians.
Lingle has persuaded the Bush administration not to oppose the measure — yet — but she's struck out in budging Republican senators who have used procedural maneuvers to block a vote.
The only progress on moving Republican senators has been made not by Lingle, but by Hawai'i's Democratic Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka, who have used vote trading to advance the measure.
Late last year, in exchange for dropping objections to a Republican energy bill that would have eased environmental controls on oil and gas exploration, they secured a written promise from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., for a floor vote on the Akaka bill by Aug. 7.
Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., agreed to release his longstanding hold on the measure.
If McCain, the other Republican senator from Arizona and its large Indian population, breaks the deal and blocks the bill, it will amount to a major political double-cross by the Republicans.
McCain claims there was an agreement when Hawai'i became a state in 1959 that Hawaiians would never gain the status of American Indians.
No evidence of any such agreement has emerged; Hawaiian native claims have been under discussion for nearly 30 years, and it has never seriously come up before.
Since statehood, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a resolution apologizing for the American role in 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
It's puzzling that Republicans have been so deaf to Lingle's pleadings.
The bill has been amended endlessly to satisfy Indian concerns and sets no precedents on affirmative action, since Hawaiians are an indigenous people rather than a racial minority. Any cost would be a drop in the national bucket.
The measure is supported by most Hawaiians, our Republican governor, our Democratic congressional delegation and state legislators from both parties.
If Lingle's infatuation with national politics has earned her any chits in Washington, this would be a good time to call them in.
Otherwise, she'll face tough questions about GOP claims that Hawai'i needs a Republican in high office to get anything done with Republicans in Washington.
West Hawaii Today (Kona)
Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hilo)
Delegates to reintroduce Native Hawaiian recognition bill on Jan. 24
By Samantha Young
Stephens Media Group
Thursday, January 13, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Hawaii lawmakers plan to renew a campaign for Native Hawaiian rights on Jan. 24 when they will reintroduce a bill allowing natives to seek federal recognition and form their own government.
On a day the U.S. Senate returns from recess to begin new work, the state's four-member delegation plans to submit essentially the same legislation that Senate Republicans blocked last year, Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, said Wednesday.
"The statement that we're making on introducing this on the first day is that we are as a delegation committed to this," Case said. "We view this as extremely important to Hawaii."
In the past two weeks, Hawaii lawmakers have been laying groundwork in Congress and in the state preparing for another run at Hawaiian recognition.
Members of Congress maintain they are optimistic because of a deal with Republican leaders in the Senate that is supposed to lead to a vote by Aug. 7.
But the forecast remains cloudy on whether the Bush administration will object to the bill.
Also, supporters were thrown a curve when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the new chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, criticized the bill last week and suggested it would not pass through his panel.
In 1993 McCain voted against legislation apologizing to Native Hawaiians for the illegal overthrow of their kingdom by the U.S. government in 1893, and has opposed federal recognition.
McCain reasoned that when Hawaii became a state that there was an implicit agreement that Native Hawaiians would not be permitted to organize like Native Americans tribes.
Advocates for Native Hawaiians said they have accumulated enough support from other Indian Affairs panel members to pass a recognition bill over McCain's objections if he schedules it for a vote.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, scrambled to secure a meeting Monday with McCain. Inouye spokesman Mike Yuen declined to comment on the meeting, and Inouye did not return an interview request.
After speaking with Inouye, Case said Wednesday that McCain promised he would "keep an open mind" on the bill.
McCain spokeswoman Andrea Jones said Wednesday the Arizona Republican will allow the bill to move through the Indian Affairs Committee. She could not say when the measure would be scheduled for a hearing.
"Traditionally, he's never held up legislation if his committee votes for it," Jones said.
Meanwhile, the Indian Affairs Committee's top Democrat, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., pledged to help shepherd the bill, according to Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, who met with Dorgan and Inouye last Friday.
"There have been tests and challenges along the way that have surfaced," Apoliona said. "I continue to be optimistic about the passage and I believe we will pass it in 2005."
Back in Hawaii, Inouye called a meeting Tuesday evening with Gov. Linda Lingle, Case, and Apoliona to brief them on his meeting with McCain and the delegation's efforts in preparation for the session.
Case said the bill will resemble legislation backed by the delegation last year, with a few technical changes. The measure creates a process for Native Hawaiians to seek recognition from the federal government, enroll Native Hawaiians and opens the door for self governance.
Lawmakers said it remains unclear whether President Bush would sign a Hawaiian federal recognition bill into law.
"The president appreciates the unique history of Hawaiians, and he believes it is important to protect and preserve the rich culture of Native Hawaiians," White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton has declined to endorse the measure, even after Hawaii aides said lawmakers changed the bill to address her concerns. Justice Department attorneys and the White House also have raised concerns about the constitutionality of recognizing Native Hawaiians as a sovereign people.
Case predicted the fate of Hawaiian recognition rests with President Bush.
"This call is going to be made in the White House," Case said. "The departments of the administration, be they Interior or Justice are not going to make this call."
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