(c) Copyright 2001 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
On Tuesday, September 26, 2000 Kenneth Conklin watched live television coverage on C-Span of the U.S. House of Representatives as it passed the Akaka bill. Here are portions of an e-mail he immediately sent out to opponents of the bill:
The Akaka bill passed the "full house" in a virtually empty chamber on a voice vote in a process that took only about six and a half minutes start to finish, at about 12:40 PM HST (6:40 PM local Washington D.C. time) on Tuesday Sept. 26.
The bill immediately before was for a small federal land purchase of a historic house in the area of the Gettysburg National Park, passed under a suspension of the rules by a 2/3 voice vote of those present and voting (probably fewer than 10 representatives were present, plus the clerks at the podium).
The bill immediately following was for a land swap of a small parcel of land near the CIA headquarters, similarly passed by voice vote under suspension of the rules.
Representative Asa Hutchinson (R, Arkansas) was in the chair. Pursuant to the rule, Representative Jim Hansen (R, Utah) and Rep. Abercrombie (D, Hawai'i) were given control of 20 minutes each. Rep. Hansen recounted the hearings in Honolulu, the favorable testimony of various Indian tribes, and the hearings of the House Committee on Resources. Hansen spoke for about 3 minutes. He assured that there would be no impact on other Indian appropriations, and no gambling. Hansen said there are no Indian tribes in Hawai'i, and no Indian reservations or Indian lands, and that Hawai'i (along with Utah) criminally prohibits all forms of gambling and therefore there can be no Indian gaming under this bill. Abercrombie spoke less than one minute mostly to thank everybody, and then yielded to Patsy Mink. She spoke in favor of the bill, explaining that it is necessary in the wake of Rice v. Cayetano, which has immobilized the State of Hawai'i in its efforts to carry out its trust responsibilities to Native Hawaiians.
In the last half of her remarks, Patsy Mink said, "So why do we have to enact HR4904? Because we need to replace the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with a self-governing entity that can sustain an election process which is restricted only to Native Hawaiian people. HR4904 as amended in committee is stripped down to create a concept and leave the procedural details to the Native Hawaiians themselves... the goal of self-determination should be left to the execution and implementation of the Native Hawaiians. HR4904 is an appropriate way to cure this difficulty caused by Rice v. Cayetano. The State of Hawai'i has taken the first step to create a self-governing body. HR 4904 now sets the federal mechanism to correct the decision of Rice v. Cayetano. HR4904 must pass."
Representative Hutchinson called for a voice vote. When he called for the yeas, I could hear perhaps 2 or 3. When he called for the nays, I could hear one loud nay from somewhere far away. Then he said that in the judgment of the chair 2/3 of those present and voting had approved the bill, and the bill was passed. Then, in a customary procedure to provide finality, Hutchinson immediately stated "without objection the motion to reconsider is laid on the table" The entire process took six and a half minutes.
Following the series of 8 unimportant and non-controversial bills, someone sought and received unanimous consent for speakers on all these bills to "revise and extend their remarks anytime within the following 5 days." That means that Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie can write lengthy essays to be published in the Congressional Record, giving the impression that these remarks were made on the floor of the House during a debate.
The following day the Honolulu Advertiser reported how Congressman Abercrombie's stealth strategy had secured passage of the bill. The full text of this newspaper article is copied below.
But the important part of the article, copied here, describes Abercrombie's strategy:
With the help of House Resources Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, the bill was placed in the middle of a list of noncontroversial measures expected to easily pass the House without much discussion. Abercrombie fought silently Abercrombie was trying to keep the issue as quiet as possible so as not to attract any opposition. He did not speak in favor of it on the floor, only entering a written statement into the Congressional Record. Congressional staff said Abercrombie was prepared to pull the bill off the floor and delay the vote if he heard of any opposition. If a member who opposed it had called for a recorded vote, instead of a voice vote, the measure would have required two-thirds approval to pass.... "My heart is pounding; I am so happy," Abercrombie said after the House vote. "This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me in my legislative career. Forty-one years ago, I came to Hawai‘i without any idea of serving in Congress on behalf of Hawai‘i’s people. What I owe to Hawai‘i in some small measure has been repaid today. It justifies my life in public service."
Here is full text of the newspaper article:
Honolulu Advertiser, September 27, 2000
House OKs native bill
By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — In a major victory for supporters of a bill to federally
recognize Native Hawaiians, the U.S. House yesterday passed the measure by
voice vote, with only 10 minutes of discussion.
The passage was also an important victory for Rep. Neil Abercrombie
(D-Hawai‘i), who quickly steered the bill through the contentious House
Resources Committee and the House, whose 434 members represent myriad
political philosophies on issues related to indigenous people.
The elated Hawai‘i congressional delegation’s focus moves to the Senate,
where the bill isn’t expected to face nearly as much difficulty as in the
House, given the strong influence of Sen. Dan Inouye and the strong
friendships of Sen. Daniel Akaka, the state’s Democratic senators. About two
weeks remain in the legislative session.
Though Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawai‘i) has been silent on the issue since her
statement at the end August hearings on the bill in Hawai‘i, she spoke in favor
of the measure on the House floor.
In Hawai‘i, Mink had said she wanted to see a referendum on Native Hawaiian
recognition, but she was never clear on exactly how that would occur.
Yesterday, she said her concerns had been satisfied.
The measure would federally recognize Native Hawaiians as a distinct
indigenous group with a right to self-determination, and it would set a
process to establish a Native Hawaiian governing body within the state. The
governing body would have government-to-government relations with the
United States, similar to those of American Indian nations.
"My heart is pounding; I am so happy," Abercrombie said after the House vote.
"This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me in my legislative
career. Forty-one years ago, I came to Hawai‘i without any idea of serving in
Congress on behalf of Hawai‘i’s people. What I owe to Hawai‘i in some small
measure has been repaid today. It justifies my life in public service."
Help soothing the pain
The bill would help Hawaiians resolve the grief and pain remaining from the
United States’ 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, Abercrombie said.
He said he believed he was able to overcome opposition to the bill in the
House by explaining the issues involved to fellow members and allaying their
concerns, especially that the new Hawaiian governing body would require
substantial federal financial aid and that the bill could lead to gambling in
Mink declined comment afterward. But in her statement on the House floor,
she complimented Abercrombie for getting the bill through committee "in
The Supreme Court’s Rice vs. Cayetano decision, which rejected the state
law allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote for trustees of the state Office of
Hawaiian Affairs, "has immobilized our state in the performance of its
mandated trust responsibility to the Native Hawaiian people," Mink said. The
bill "replaces what the Supreme Court struck down. (It) must pass."
Mink said she was pleased to see that the amended bill was "stripped down to
create a concept" of self-governance but left the procedural details to the
Native Hawaiians themselves. Referring to her initial insistence on a
referendum, she said she was satisfied because Hawaiians would voluntarily
participate in the new native government, and those who participate would
vote to ratify the governing documents.
Akaka, who returned to Washington yesterday morning nearly two months
after undergoing hip surgery, said he was elated and gratified by the bill’s
strong bipartisan support.
With the help of House Resources Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska,
the bill was placed in the middle of a list of noncontroversial measures
expected to easily pass the House without much discussion.
Abercrombie fought silently
Abercrombie was trying to keep the issue as quiet as possible so as not to
attract any opposition. He did not speak in favor of it on the floor, only
entering a written statement into the Congressional Record.
Congressional staff said Abercrombie was prepared to pull the bill off the floor
and delay the vote if he heard of any opposition. If a member who opposed it
had called for a recorded vote, instead of a voice vote, the measure would
have required two-thirds approval to pass.
In Hawai‘i, the bill’s passage in the House was a cause for celebration for
those who supported it and helped craft it.
"This is really good news for the Hawaiian people," said Beadie Kanahele
Dawson, vice president of the Native Hawaiian working group that gave input
on the draft legislation. The bill "is not an end in itself, but it’s a beginning,
and I’d like to see all Hawaiians come together to make this work."
Anthony Sang, chairman of the state Council of Hawaiian Homestead
Associations, credited American Indian and Alaska Native groups for helping
garner congressional support.
However, if and when the bill clears the Senate, more hurdles lie ahead
within the Native Hawaiian community, he said.
"The most difficult step will be trying to create this Hawaiian government,"
Sang said, "That’s a major challenge, and we Hawaiians will have to come
Advertiser staff writer Yasmin Anwar contributed to this report.
(c) Copyright 2001 Kenneth R. Conklin. All rights reserved.
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