(c) Copyright 2001 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
Following are excerpts from a series of newspaper articles that ran between October 5 and December 13, describing the slow death of the Akaka bill in the U.S. Senate. In each case the URL for the full article is provided for reference, but not as a hot link.
Posted on: Thursday, October 5, 2000
By Susan Roth, Advertiser Washington Bureau
Hostility against native bill crops up in capital
WASHINGTON — The swift movement of the Native Hawaiian recognition bill
through Congress has drawn opponents out of the woodwork this week,
raising the prospect that the measure could stall in the Senate.
Although there has been vocal opposition in Hawai‘i for months, such voices
have been quiet in Washington until now, with the measure having
unexpectedly breezed through the House last week and being poised for
passage in the Senate.
Opponents are not demonstrating here, but they have made their influence
count with some conservative national media outlets, including the Wall
Street Journal, that have influence among Republicans on Capitol Hill.
[The bill] still faces some opposition in the Senate, which is
keeping it from passing unanimously.
Unanimous approval remains the dominant strategy of Sens. Dan Inouye and
Daniel Akaka, the Hawai‘i Democrats who are trying to resolve objections to
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that the bill passed by
the House would "restore Hawai‘i’s racial spoils system. Let’s hope the Senate
sits on the idea."
On Tuesday, the National Review’s online version published a "guest comment"
by Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a
conservative think tank.
"A disturbing piece of legislation has rather unexpectedly made rapid progress
through both houses of Congress and is now on the brink of passage," the
commentary begins. "If passed, it would represent an appalling failure by the
Republican leadership in both houses to oppose racial and ethnic
The commentary links to the Web site of Kenneth Conklin, a Hawai‘i resident
and vocal opponent of the bill.
Both the editorial and the commentary protest that the bill would accord a
"special status" to Native Hawaiians that would set a dangerous racial
precedent. Both erroneously cite Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawai‘i, as the bill’s
In fact, Mink has largely opposed the measure. She spoke in favor of it on the
House floor last week, and both articles quote from her comments, but
afterward said she still has problems with it.
Yesterday, the bill was the main topic of discussion during a National Public
Radio show called "Native America Calling," broadcast from Albuquerque, N.M.
Kekuni Blaisdell, a Hawaiian activist who opposes the measure and the
concept behind it, debated with bill supporter Jade Danner during the
one-hour show; both participated by telephone from Hawai‘i.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate have not cleared the bill for passage
under the process requiring unanimous consent.
Inouye and Akaka have asked Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., chairman
of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which easily passed the bill, to find
out where the problems are so they can talk with those who have objections
to the bill.
While the Hawai‘i senators still have other options for passage, such as
attaching the measure to a spending bill that must pass before the legislative
session ends, such options are considered last resorts.
Last week, Oklahoma Republican Sens. Don Nickles and James Inhofe raised
concerns about the measure. For Inhofe, at least, those have not been
"We don’t think Native Hawaiians have an equal equation to the way Indian
tribes have been treated," said Gary Hoitsma, Inhofe’s press secretary. "There
isn’t a long history of a native government in place as there is with the Indian
nations. This bill could be setting a precedent that is counterproductive, and
setting a precedent for funding as well. It needs more study to see what the
ramifications would be."
Hoitsma referred to the National Review commentary as "reflecting our views."
The Tuesday, October 3 article from the online edition of the National Review, mentioned above, is copied here:
No Bill Is an Island
By Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity
A disturbing piece of legislation has rather unexpectedly made rapid progress
through both houses of Congress and is now on the brink of passage. If
passed, it would represent an appalling failure by the Republican leadership
in both houses to oppose racial and ethnic balkanization.
H.R. 4904 was voted
out of the House Resources Committee on September 20 and, last week, was
perfunctorily passed by the full House in a voice vote with only 10 minutes
of discussion. Its counterpart, S. 2899, has been voted out of the Senate
Indian Affairs Committee and stands ready now to be passed by the full
Senate. Because the bills are identical, there would be no need for a
House-Senate conference. Instead the legislation would go immediately to
President Clinton's eagerly poised pen.
The bills would single out "Native
Hawaiians" as deserving of special treatment by the United States government.
By so doing, the bills raise serious problems under the U.S. Constitution's
Equal Protection Clause, particularly in light of this year's Supreme Court
decision in Rice v. Cayetano — indeed, the legislation seeks to overturn this
decision. Constitutional issues aside, it is wrong for the government to
favor certain groups because of their ethnicity. The Rice decision had
rejected Hawaii's practice of allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote in
certain elections. The new bill, however, is designed — in the words of its
sponsor, U.S. Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI) — to "sustain an election
process that is restrictive to only native Hawaiian people."
But the bill is
much worse than just that. The legislation defines Native Hawaiians as "the
lineal descendants of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people who resided
in the islands that now comprise the state of Hawaii." It asserts that these
blood-defined people have "an inherent right to autonomy in their internal
affairs"; "an inherent right of self-determination and self-governance"; "the
right to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government"; and "the right to become
economically self-sufficient." The legislation also sets up an apparatus to
ensure that the federal bureaucracy gives special treatment to this group,
including "continuing the process of reconciliation" and "facilitating a
process for self-determination." The bills would also create a "roll" that
would provide "certification of Native Hawaiian ancestry," complete with
hearings to assess whether or not an applicant had the proper bloodlines.
Those, and only those, passing the test could then participate in creating a
new "Native Hawaiian government" with authority to, among other things,
"negotiate with Federal, State, and local governments, and other entities."
The special treatment based on blood promised by the legislation sets a
dangerous precedent. Under this logic, any group will be able to claim a
"right" to special status based on its ancestry. As the Wall Street Journal
noted, if Native Hawaiians "can be accorded special status, so too could
African-Americans or Bosnian-Americans, a path fraught with peril and
partiality." The Supreme Court had ruled in Rice that "Ancestry can be a
proxy for race. It is that proxy here. "Notwithstanding that ruling, the
bill's proponents now seek to have Congress declare that Native Hawaiians are
not an ethnic group, but an Indian tribe. But it is historically and
factually untenable to equate Native Hawaiians with an Indian tribe. One
recalls the riddle told by Abraham Lincoln: "How many legs does a dog have if
you call a tail a leg? Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it
one. "Calling Native Hawaiians an Indian tribe doesn't make them one.
would of course also have agreed with the Supreme Court's statement in Rice
that "it demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry
instead of by his or her own merit and essential qualities." And so even if
Congress had authority to create new, blood-defined, self-governing groups
within our nation, why should it want to?
The Court ended its Rice decision
by writing, "The Constitution of the United States, too, has become the
heritage of all the citizens of Hawaii." It will be appalling if Congress
revokes the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection for all citizens of
Hawaii, regardless of ancestry, and replaces it instead with legislation that
declares some Hawaiians to be more equal than others.
Posted on: Saturday, October 7, 2000
Native Hawaiian bill hits snag in Congress
By Susan Roth, Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee says the
Native Hawaiian recognition bill has stalled in the Senate because lawmakers
have concerns about money and the notion of Hawaiian sovereignty.
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., has said he, too, was worried that
federal recognition of Native Hawaiians could take money away from American
Campbell said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, reassured him, promising to
continue securing financing for Native Hawaiian programs separately from
Indian money. Campbell then helped pass the bill out of committee with
But the issue lingers, Campbell said this week.
"The concern is if you name a new tribe of more than 200,000 people as
Native Americans, that might impact funding. It might affect the Bureau of
Indian Affairs," Campbell said.
While the bill would not turn Native Hawaiians into an American Indian tribe,
it would set a process for the creation of a Native Hawaiian governing body
with government-to-government relations with the United States similar to
those of Indian tribes.
The language, similar to other measures granting federal recognition to Indian
tribes, has appeared to ignite the anxiety about money, more so because
several senators say Indian programs don’t receive enough as it is.
If Native Hawaiian programs were added to the mix, "you would have to either
diminish resources for the tribes or increase the pie," Campbell said. He
added that Native Hawaiians would automatically become the largest such
"tribe" in the country if the bill passes, larger than the 170,000-member Navajo
nation. This sheer size would overwhelm Indian programs that already are
struggling, other senators have said.
"We don’t know what will happen 10 years from now" or after Inouye leaves
office, Campbell said of Native Hawaiian money requests. In the past, Indian
tribes have not usually asked for money when given federal recognition. "But
in just a matter of a few years, they could say, "We need help, we need land,
we need BIA money, we need Indian Health Services.’ It’s the long-term
effect that is the problem," Campbell said.
Campbell also acknowledged that some senators have ideological objections
to the idea of Hawaiian sovereignty. "There is some concern about whether
there should be nation-within-a-nation status" for Native Hawaiians, he said. In
particular, he mentioned the historical complaints of Sen. Slade Gorton,
R-Wash., who has several times raised the issue of non-Indians being denied
rights on Indian reservations in Washington state.
Gorton, who is locked in a tight, expensive re-election campaign, was
unavailable for comment, and his press secretary said he did not know about
Gorton’s objections to the bill. Gorton’s historically rocky relations with
Indian tribes in his state have resulted in their solid opposition to his
campaign. They have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on television and
other advertising to defeat him.
Campbell said he knew that Inouye has been "negotiating" these issues with
Gorton and others who have objections to the bill, including Republican
Oklahoma Sens. Don Nickles and James Inhofe.
Asked to discuss his problems with the bill this week, Nickles said: "I could,
but I won’t."
Posted on: Wednesday, October 18, 2000
Hawaiian bill stalled in Senate
By Susan Roth, Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Native Hawaiian recognition bill remains stuck in the
Senate, held hostage as arguments swirl over controversial spending
Like any number of other bills, it remains held up by a lack of action.
The bill, which would set up a Native Hawaiian governing body within the
state of Hawai‘i with government-to-government relations with the United
States, is still a candidate for unanimous passage in the Senate. But at least
one Republican senator — and perhaps three — still oppose it, and Hawai‘i’s
senators apparently have not been able to satisfy their concerns.
The measure quickly passed the House on a voice vote Sept. 26. Since then,
Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka have been seeking unanimous approval for
it in the Senate, but objections cropped up from Republican Sens. Don
Nickles and James Inhofe, both of Oklahoma, and Slade Gorton of Washington.
Under the Senate’s procedure, the bill cannot move until all objections are
removed. Should that happen, the bill could pass the same day.
Cardus said the bill’s best chance for unanimous approval will be in the last
few days of the session, but no one knows when that will be.
Eight of 13 fiscal 2001 appropriations bills remain to be approved, and
other major legislation also awaits action: a tax package, a bill to raise the
minimum wage and a measure to reform managed health care.
Patricia Zell, an aide to Inouye, said Inouye and Akaka are "still trying to
check with members who have concerns" about the Hawaiian recognition bill
and they are shoring up the support of others. But she said they are "looking
at all options" for passage now, which include inserting the bill into a larger
measure bound for passage.
Posted on: Thursday, October 26, 2000
Native bill near passage
By Yasmin Anwar and Susan Roth, Advertiser Staff Writers
After being stuck in the Senate for weeks, the Native Hawaiian recognition
bill could soon shake loose. And from Washington to Hawai‘i, there are
growing expectations that the measure will pass before month’s end.
Washington insiders expect the bill to pass the Senate as early as this week,
but the exact date remains uncertain. Congressional staff say they expect to
work through Saturday to complete the year’s business. If that’s the case,
the bill could pass tomorrow or Saturday.
The bill passed the House on a voice vote a month ago, and the president is
expected to sign it — if the Senate indeed approves it.
Akaka, who is running for re-election, has insisted that "we’re on track" and
said he is still working toward unanimous approval. Republican senators who
earlier raised objections to the bill have agreed not to hold it up, though it
still has not received a final clearance from the GOP leadership.
The bill could be passed as individual legislation or could be attached to a
spending bill or an omnibus appropriations bill. The appropriations must pass
before Congress adjourns.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, who co-sponsored the bill, is a highly influential
member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and close friend of the
panel chairman, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
In the meantime, Congress, which was scheduled to adjourn Oct. 6, must
wrap up work on three major spending bills for fiscal 2001, to provide money
to the Labor Department, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce,
Justice and State, as well as the District of Columbia.
In the wider scope of national concerns, a bill granting federal recognition to
Native Hawaiians is a minor issue on Capitol Hill. But in Hawai‘i it would rate as
a major step in a tumultuous year for Native Hawaiians.
Akaka introduced the bill in June to protect federally financed programs that
benefit Native Hawaiians. He took action after the U.S. Supreme Court issued
a ruling that did not treat Native Hawaiians as a federally recognized
John Goemans, the attorney who argued Rice’s case at the Supreme Court,
said yesterday that the Akaka bill, too, will be subject to constitutional
challenges if passed, and would make Congress look foolish and raise false
hopes in the sovereignty movement.
"It gives local proponents of self-determination and sovereignty false hope,
and that’s bad," he said.
Honolulu attorney H. William Burgess, who represented 13 Hawai‘i residents in
their successful challenge to OHA’s restriction of trustee seats to Hawaiians
only, has been lobbying against the bill. He said such legislation would result
in the balkanization of Hawai‘i.
"We don’t want to end up like the former Yugoslavia ,where there are ethnic
groups battling with other ethnic groups," he said.
OHA Chairman Clayton Hee spoke of how federal recognition has done
wonders for Alaska natives, whose population is half the size of Hawai‘i’s
native population and yet receives $600 million a year in federal money for
"That federal recognition is the segue to federal funding," he said, recounting
a trip he took to Anchorage last week to address the Alaska Federation of
Posted on: Saturday, November 11, 2000
GOP lukewarm on native bill
By Susan Roth Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Hawai‘i Republican Party is neither pushing for
passage of the Native Hawaiian recognition bill, now stalled in
Congress, nor becoming involved in GOP efforts to block it.
The bill is supported by Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation, all
Democrats. It passed the House, but is now facing significant opposition
from Republican senators.
The state party has not taken any official position on the measure, but
the Republican Party platform "supports its intent," said Micah Kane,
executive director of the local GOP.
The bill would allow Native Hawaiians to establish a governing body
within Hawai‘i with government-to-government relations with the United
States similar to those of American Indian tribes.
The party’s state platform says Hawai‘i Republicans "encourage
Hawaiians to support initiatives leading to implementation of Hawai‘i
self-determination by popular vote of the Hawaiian people."
Members and staff of the Democratic congressional delegation have
wondered whether the state GOP has contacted national party leaders or
encouraged Senate Republicans who oppose the bill. Staff of the
Republican National Committee last month called Hawai‘i Senate offices
to ask about the bill.
The measure passed the House in September but chances for passage in
the Senate are looking increasingly bleak as Congress continues to
haggle over the budget.
In an opinion column, Kane and Linda Lingle, chairwoman of the Hawai‘i
party, said: "We support self-determination for Native Hawaiians in
managing their own affairs and resources." Hawaiians need the federal
recognition offered by the bill to preserve various programs like
Hawaiian-only education and health, Kane has also said.
Kane said a lack of time has prevented the party’s executive committee
from deciding whether to support the bill directly.
"We’ve had no opportunity to review the bill in detail," Kane said. "It
came up so quick that we haven’t had a chance. There’s no ulterior
motive for us not to look at it."
Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Carroll, who lost his challenge
to Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, leader of the effort to craft the bill,
based his campaign on his opposition to the measure.
The Hawai‘i Republican Party distanced itself from Carroll on the
issue, especially after he filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the
Office of Hawaiian Affairs violates the Constitution by spending money
"for racially discriminatory purposes."
"We made it clear that we disagree with the legal activities of John
Carroll," Kane said. "His lawsuit is not in line with our platform."
"I don’t think our position as a state party would add or take away
from what’s happening with the bill in the Senate," Kane said. "But we
have not taken any action on it. Nobody on our executive or state
committee has contacted senators or the Republican National Committee.
Republican opposition is not coming from Hawai‘i, except for John Carroll."
Kane said he’s not sure if the issue will hurt his party. "That could
be the case on the Democratic side, too," he said. "It’s a broad issue.
I don’t think the views out there are based on partisanship at all."
He acknowledged that the Republican party has been "a little hesitant"
to take a stand on the bill, but added that the Carroll lawsuit "allowed
us to articulate our position on Hawaiian issues."
None of the Hawai‘i congressional delegation has asked Lingle to
intervene on behalf of the bill, but Kane said she would take the issue
to the party’s executive committee if asked directly.
Don Clegg, a Hawai‘i Democratic pollster, said he was not surprised
that the Republicans are skirting a direct statement on the bill.
"It’s not a party issue and they don’t want to make it a party issue,"
he said. "It’s a sensitive issue in the community because people would
think others should be supporting the bill because it’s the right thing
to do, but privately maybe they don’t support it. My guess is that a lot
of people are uncomfortable with it."
Clegg added that politicians may be shying away from the bill because
the notion of Hawaiian sovereignty remains undefined. "People who might
be threatened by it don’t know what to be threatened by. They don’t know
what the impact of sovereignty might be," he said.
Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Senators have hope
for Hawaiian status bill
Akaka and Inouye are optimistic
the legislation, which has passed the
House, will still get through the Senate
By Pat Omandam, Star-Bulletin
A federal bill that clarifies the political status of native Hawaiians is
looking for a second wind as Congress gets back to work following its
For now, the U.S. Senate's priority is to approve four appropriation, or
spending, bills for federal departments needed to keep government
Beyond that, Hawaii's two senators remain optimistic that the Akaka bill
will get a chance at passage, but they are not saying much, according to
their top aides.
"It's not dead, and we're just going to have to wait to see what kind of
action is possible," said Jennifer Goto Sabas, chief of staff for U.S. Sen.
Daniel K. Inouye.
Goto Sabas said the political atmosphere in Washington, D.C., is a
free-for-all because of the presidential election turmoil. She said the
Senate's agenda remains open for any legislation put on hold when
Congress took a recess for the general election.
The U.S. House passed an identical version of the bill in September,
raising hope for quick passage in the Senate, where it got bogged down.
President Clinton said during his stopover last month in Hawaii that he
would sign the bill if it's approved by the Senate.
Inouye and Akaka want the bill passed during this session because they
fear the next president may oppose the bill and veto it.
Paul Cardus, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, said it remains
to be seen if the recess helped or hampered the bill. Both Akaka and
Inouye continue to lobby for it with fellow senators, but they are reticent to
predict if it will pass before the 106th Congress leaves on Jan. 2, Cardus
"So much of this work has been and is being done at the member level --
and they don't always let me know what's going on," he said.
Cardus said the break was beneficial because there are now more ways the
bill could pass. Prior to the congressional recess, the only option left was
if the proposal was added to another bill. Now, the measure could pass as
an amendment or as stand-alone legislation needing unanimous consent by
senators. "As long as they're in session, all options remains open,"
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