Archive for December, 2012

‘Scramble’ complete

December 28th, 2012

A day earlier, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he looked forward to the “scramble” that would take place in the Senate after the promotion of Senate President Shan Tsutsui to lieutenant governor.

The scramble took less than 24 hours to complete, as Senate Democrats on Friday announced a reorganization behind Vice President Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa).

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (Kauai-Niihau) will serve as Senate vice president and Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki) wil continue on as Majority Leader. Sen. David Ige (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) also retains his chairmanship of the important Ways and Means Committee.

Senators say there was a strong desire to reorganize quickly and have as little disruption as possible, with Kim, the vice president and presiding officer following Tsutsui’s departure, being a logical choice to assume the role of president.

Below, the press release from the Senate Majority with details of the committee assignments:

Kim_News Release


December 26th, 2012

The appointment of U.S. Sen.-designee Brian Schatz to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye leaves a vacancy here in Hawaii in the lieutenant governor’s office.

According to the state constitution, the next in line to the state’s No. 2 executive is the state Senate president, who must make a decision “promptly,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said.

Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Waihee-Wailuku-Kuhului) issued a statement Wednesday:

“I understand that by law, as Senate President, I would be next in line to succeed Lieutenant Governor Schatz.  I plan to discuss this prospect with the Governor and my family before making a decision.”

If he ultimately turns it down, next in line is the House speaker, followed by the state Attorney General and then state budget director.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo-St. Louis Heights-Kaimuki) said he has not given much consideration to the possibility of succeeding Schatz.

In an interview, Say said:

“I’ll wait to what the senator has to say, but I haven’t made any statements. … Let’s wait and see until I get a call.”

A fitting ‘Aloha’

December 21st, 2012

Screen grab from


Remembering the man who was “perhaps my earliest political inspiration,” President Barack Obama recalled his first recollections of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, as an 11-year-old from Hawaii on a road trip to the mainland with his mother, grandmother and sister.

During that trip, at roadside motels, the family often watched the Watergate hearings chaired by Inouye on television.
Said Obama:

Now, here I was, a young boy with a white mom, a black father, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. And I was beginning to sense how fitting into the world might not be as simple as it might seem. And so to see this man, this senator, this powerful, accomplished person who wasn’t out of central casting when it came to what you’d think a senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life.

The Hawaii-born president was among a handful of dignitaries who spoke at Friday’s memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for Inouye, who died Monday at age 88.

Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gen. Eric Shinseki all spoke of their relationships with Inouye and his impact on their lives and the lives of those around him.

Said Clinton:

“They blew his arm off in World War II, but they never ever laid a finger on his heart, or his mind.”

U.S. Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa each delivered a reading at the service.

Obama fondly recalled meeting “Danny” shortly after his first election to the U.S. Senate and spoke of how Inouye embodied the Aloha Spirit.

He said it was fitting that “Aloha,” was his last word:

He may have been saying goodbye to us.  Maybe he was saying hello to someone waiting on the other side.  But it was a final expression most of all of his love for the family and friends that he cared so much about, for the men and women he was honored to serve with, for the country that held such a special place in his heart.

Inouye’s body is to return to Hawaii on Saturday, when he will lie in state at the state Capitol. A final public memorial service is scheduled Sunday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Below, the official White House transcript of Obama’s remarks:

11:50 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  To Irene, Ken, Jennifer, Danny’s friends and former colleagues, it is an extraordinary honor to be here with you in this magnificent place to pay tribute to a man who would probably we wondering what all the fuss is about.

This Tuesday was in many ways a day like any other.  The sun rose; the sun set; the great work of our democracy carried on.  But in a fundamental sense it was different.  It was the first day in many of our lives — certainly my own — that the halls of the United States Congress were not graced by the presence of Daniel Ken Inouye.

Danny was elected to the U.S. Senate when I was two years old.  He had been elected to Congress a couple of years before I was born.  He would remain my senator until I left Hawaii for college.

Now, even though my mother and grandparents took great pride that they had voted for him, I confess that I wasn’t paying much attention to the United States Senate at the age of four or five or six.  It wasn’t until I was 11 years old that I recall even learning what a U.S. senator was, or it registering, at least.  It was during my summer vacation with my family — my first trip to what those of us in Hawaii call the Mainland.

So we flew over the ocean, and with my mother and my grandmother and my sister, who at the time was two, we traveled around the country.  It was a big trip.  We went to Seattle, and we went to Disneyland — which was most important.  We traveled to Kansas where my grandmother’s family was from, and went to Chicago, and went to Yellowstone.  And we took Greyhound buses most of the time, and we rented cars, and we would stay at local motels or Howard Johnson’s.  And if there was a pool at one of these motels, even if it was just tiny, I would be very excited. And the ice machine was exciting — and the vending machine, I was really excited about that.

But this is at a time when you didn’t have 600 stations and 24 hours’ worth of cartoons.  And so at night, if the TV was on, it was what your parents decided to watch.  And my mother that summer would turn on the TV every night during this vacation and watch the Watergate hearings.  And I can’t say that I understood everything that was being discussed, but I knew the issues were important.  I knew they spoke to some basic way about who we were and who we might be as Americans.

And so, slowly, during the course of this trip, which lasted about a month, some of this seeped into my head.  And the person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of dignity and grace.  And maybe he captivated my attention because my mom explained that this was our senator and that he was upholding what our government was all about.  Maybe it was a boyhood fascination with the story of how he had lost his arm in a war.  But I think it was more than that.

Now, here I was, a young boy with a white mom, a black father, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.  And I was beginning to sense how fitting into the world might not be as simple as it might seem.  And so to see this man, this senator, this powerful, accomplished person who wasn’t out of central casting when it came to what you’d think a senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life.

This was a man who as a teenager stepped up to serve his country even after his fellow Japanese Americans were declared enemy aliens; a man who believed in America even when its government didn’t necessarily believe in him.  That meant something to me.  It gave me a powerful sense — one that I couldn’t put into words — a powerful sense of hope.

And as I watched those hearings, listening to Danny ask all those piercing questions night after night, I learned something else.  I learned how our democracy was supposed to work, our government of and by and for the people; that we had a system of government where nobody is above the law, where we have an obligation to hold each other accountable, from the average citizen to the most powerful of leaders, because these things that we stand for, these ideals that we hold dear are bigger than any one person or party or politician.

And, somehow, nobody communicated that more effectively than Danny Inouye.  You got a sense, as Joe mentioned, of just a fundamental integrity; that he was a proud Democrat, but most importantly, he was a proud American.  And were it not for those two insights planted in my head at the age of 11, in between Disneyland and a trip to Yellowstone, I might never have considered a career in public service.  I might not be standing here today.

I think it’s fair to say that Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration.  And then, for me to have the privilege of serving with him, to be elected to the United States Senate and arrive, and one of my first visits is to go to his office, and for him to greet me as a colleague, and treat me with the same respect that he treated everybody he met, and to sit me down and give me advice about how the Senate worked and then regale me with some stories about wartime and his recovery — stories full of humor, never bitterness, never boastfulness,  just matter-of-fact — some of them I must admit a little off-color.  I couldn’t probably repeat them in the cathedral.  (Laughter.)  There’s a side of Danny that — well.

Danny once told his son his service to this country had been for the children, or all the sons and daughters who deserved to grow up in a nation that never questioned their patriotism.  This is my country, he said.  Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that.  And, obviously, Rick Shinseki described what it meant for Japanese Americans, but my point is, is that when he referred to our sons and daughters he wasn’t just talking about Japanese Americans.  He was talking about all of us.  He was talking about those who serve today who might have been excluded in the past.  He’s talking about me.

And that’s who Danny was.  For him, freedom and dignity were not abstractions.  They were values that he had bled for, ideas he had sacrificed for, rights he understood as only someone can who has had them threatened, had them taken away.

The valor that earned him our nation’s highest military decoration — a story so incredible that when you actually read the accounts, you think this — you couldn’t make this up.  It’s like out of an action movie.  That valor was so rooted in a deep and abiding love of this country.  And he believed, as we say in Hawaii that we’re a single ‘ohana — that we’re one family.  And he devoted his life to making that family strong.

After experiencing the horror of war himself, Danny also felt a profound connection to those who followed.  It wasn’t unusual for him to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with a veteran or a fellow amputee, trading stories, telling jokes — two heroes, generations apart, sharing an unspoken bond that was forged in battle and tempered in peace.  In no small measure because of Danny’s service, our military is, and will always remain, the best in the world, and we recognize our sacred obligation to give our veterans the care they deserve.

Of course, Danny didn’t always take credit for the difference he made.  Ever humble, one of the only landmarks that bear his name is a Marine Corps mess hall in Hawaii.  And when someone asked him how he wanted to be remembered, Danny said, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability.  I think I did okay.”

Danny, you were more than okay.  You were extraordinary.

It’s been mentioned that Danny ended his convention speech in Chicago in 1968 with the word, “aloha.”  “To some of you who visited us, it may have meant hello,” he said, but “To others, it may have meant goodbye.  Those of us who’ve been privileged to live in Hawaii understand aloha means I love you.”

And as someone who has been privileged to live in Hawaii, I know that he embodied the very best of that spirit, the very best of “aloha.”  It’s fitting it was the last word that Danny spoke on this Earth.  He may have been saying goodbye to us.  Maybe he was saying hello to someone waiting on the other side.  But it was a final expression most of all of his love for the family and friends that he cared so much about, for the men and women he was honored to serve with, for the country that held such a special place in his heart.

And so we remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage, and moved us with his compassion, that inspired us with his integrity, and who taught so many of us — including a young kid growing up in Hawaii –– that America has a place for everyone.

May God bless Daniel Inouye.  And may God grant us more souls like his.

END                                   11:58 A.M. EST

Final ask

December 20th, 2012

The retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka took to the Senate floor on Thursday and urged his colleagues to approve a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill in honor of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

The bill, known as the Akaka bill, has passed the House three times but has stalled in the Senate since 2000 because of opposition from conservative Republicans who consider it race-based discrimination. The bill would recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people with the right to self-determination, similar to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

From the Hawaii Democrat’s prepared text:

Mr. President, I rise today as my friend, my colleague, my brother, Dan Inouye, lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda just a few yards from where I stand now.

In life he received our nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, and today he is receiving a tribute reserved for just a handful of American heroes like Abraham Lincoln.

I come to the floor today to speak about an important piece of legislation that I developed and worked on with Dan Inouye for over twelve years.

Today, in Dan’s honor, and for all the people of Hawaii, I am asking the Senate to pass the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.

Dan and I developed our bill to create a process that could address the many issues that continue to persist as a result of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.

As you know, Dan Inouye was a champion for Hawaii and worked every day of his honorable life to solve problems and help our island state.

Dan also served on the Indian Affairs Committee for over 30 years and chaired it twice. He was an unwavering advocate for the United States’ government-to-government relationships with Native Nations. He constantly reminded our colleagues in the Senate about our Nation’s trust responsibilities — and our treaty obligations — to America’s first peoples.

Dan believed that through self-determination and self-governance, these communities could thrive and contribute to the greatness of the United States.

When asked how long the United States would have a trust responsibility to Native communities, he would quote the treaties between the United States and Native Nations, which promised care and support as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Dan Inouye’s sheer determination to improve the lives of this country’s Indigenous peoples and make good on the promises America made to them — led him to introduce more than 100 pieces of legislation on behalf of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

Dan Inouye secured passage of the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act, and the Native Hawaiian Homeownership Act.

He was instrumental in helping me enact the Apology Resolution to the Native Hawaiian people for the suppression of their right of self-determination. It was enacted on the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

In 1999, Dan and I worked together to develop the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act to give parity to Native Hawaiians.

For over 12 years we worked together to pass the bill to ensure that Native Hawaiians have the same rights as other Native peoples — and an opportunity to engage in the same government-to-government relationship with the United States already granted to over 560 Native Nations throughout the country, across the continental U.S. and in Alaska. But not yet in Hawaii.

Our bill affords Native Hawaiians the same tools to achieve self-sufficiency as other Native communities—tools that already exist under federal law—no more, no less.

Over the years, people have mischaracterized the intent and effect of our bill, so let me be plain. For me, as I know it was for Dan, this bill is about simple justice, fairness in federal policy, and being a nation that acknowledges that while we cannot undo history, we can right past wrongs and move forward. To us, this bill represented what is pono, just and right.

Our bill is supported by President Barack Obama and the U.S Departments of Justice and Interior. It has the strong support of Hawaii’s Governor and the State Legislature, and a large majority of the people of Hawaii.

Our bill has the endorsement of the American Bar Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and groups throughout the Native Hawaiian community.

As a Senator and senior statesman, Dan Inouye advocated that Congress do its job and legislate where Native communities were concerned. Dan Inouye believed that a promise made should be a promise kept.

In the days since my dear friend Dan’s passing, there has been a tremendous outpouring of love from Hawaii and every other state in the union. And Native communities across the country are mourning the loss and paying tribute to their great champion.

Dan Inouye’s absence will be felt in this chamber and the nation for many years to come. May his legacy live on for generations of Native Americans and inspire all Americans to always strive towards justice and reconciliation.

I urge my colleagues to pass the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, in memory of Senator Daniel K. Inouye and his desire to provide parity to the Native Hawaiian people he loved so much.

And to Dan, I say: Aloha ‘oe and a hui hou, my brother.

Naming the rail

December 20th, 2012

Before the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on Monday, a common train of thought focused on the number of projects he had helped secure for the islands, and how many of them might carry his name after he died.

Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the city’s planned $5.26 billion rail transit project would be a good place to start, according to Mayor Peter Carlisle.

Carlisle, who was in Washington, D.C., yesterday for the signing of the Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration for $1.55 billion in federal money for the project, says the ceremony was bittersweet because of what it meant for Honolulu as well as what the project meant to Inouye.

Carlisle, in an interview today, said:

A lot of the focus was on the loss of Dan Inouye. The ceremony that we had with Sec. LaHood and (Federal Transit) Administrator Peter Rogoff was punctuated with accolades for the senator including Sec. LaHood’s suggestion that we figure out some way to name this that would include a reference to Sen. Inouye which certainly sounds like an appropriate thing to do.

Inouye had pledged to secure the federal money for the project and famously said during this year’s mayoral campaign that nothing short of “World War III” would prevent it from coming.

Dear Neil

December 18th, 2012

In his one of his last acts, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, sent a personal letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday informing the governor that he would not be able to complete his ninth six-year term in the Senate and recommending U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his successor.

Inouye’s office released the letter on Tuesday.

Dear Neil,

Since 1959, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Hawaii and our nation as a member of the U.S. Congress. I have been fortunate to be a part of Hawaìi’s history and growth over these many years. People haye asked me how I want to be remembered, and I say very simply, that I represented the people of Hawaii honestly and to the best of my abilities. I think I did okay.

It is with much sadness that I share with you, that I will not be able to complete my ninth term in the United States Senate. While I understand that selecting someone to serve out the remainder of my term is fully your responsibility, I respectfully request that U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa succeed me, and continue the work, together with Mazie, on behalf of Hawaii in the U.S. Senate. Colleen possesses the intellect, presence and legislative skill to succeed in the Senate. I have no doubt that she will represent Hawaii with the same fervor and commitment that I brought to the Senate chamber since 1962.

I hope you will grant me my last wish. God Bless the people of Hawaii and God Bless the United States of America.


United States Senator

Daniel Ken Inouye, 1924-2012

December 18th, 2012

“A war hero to a U.S. senator,” a detailed look back at the life of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is now posted on the Star-Advertiser’s website.

26 to 18

December 17th, 2012

State Rep. Mele Carroll and Rep. Karen Awana are the latest lawmakers to choose to organize with Rep. Joseph Souki’s coalition of dissident Democrats and Republicans.

Carroll and Awana, who had been with House Speaker Calvin Say, could not be reached for comment on Monday. But sources on both sides of the leadership fight confirmed the switch.

Awana would be floor leader under Souki, sources say.

The defections give the Souki coalition 26 Democrats — the number needed to control the 51-member House — along with seven Republicans, for 33 votes in all.

Rep. Karl Rhoads and Rep. John Mizuno had previously split from the Say faction.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Say’s chosen successor, has 18 votes.

Say announced last week that he would step down as speaker and back Oshiro but urged Democrats to organize without the help of Republicans.

24 to 20

December 14th, 2012

State Rep. Karl Rhoads said Friday that he has joined Rep. Joseph Souki’s coalition of dissident Democrats and Republicans.

Rhoads, who had been pledged to House Speaker Calvin Say, said he was influenced by Say’s announcement on Thursday that he would step down. Rhoads said he was offered the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee under Souki.

“I accepted,” said Rhoads, who is chairman of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee under Say.

Souki’s coalition now has 24 Democrats, two shy of the 26 necessary for a majority in the 51-member House. Souki also has the support of the seven House Republicans, so his coalition has 31 votes to control the chamber.

Souki has said he would prefer to have a majority of the House’s 44 Democrats but would still honor an agreement to grant Republicans three vice chairmanships of committees if he takes power.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who Say has recommended as his successor, now has 20 votes.

Souki had said on Thursday that he would give Oshiro the judiciary chairmanship if Oshiro joined the coalition.

Under pressure

December 14th, 2012

Some U.S. Senate Democrats are voicing concern about U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

The Hawaii Democrat, who is 88, was named by Senate Democrats to again chair the powerful committee when the new session of Congress convenes in January.

Some Senate Democrats are pushing for term limits for committee chairs — like Senate Republicans have imposed — and are using Inouye as an example.

Inouye, who has been hospitalized for the past week after a fainting spell, has said he intends to lead the committee when he returns to the Senate.

From The Hill:

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is coming under pressure to relinquish his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee.

Critics say the Senate panel has lost power in recent years under the 88-year-old Inouye, who took over the committee after Democrats pressured the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to step aside.

Byrd was just shy of his 91st birthday when he gave up his gavel to Inouye, who was 84 at the time.

“I love Inouye. He’s just been sort of not there in terms of running the committee,” said one Democratic senator, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about a powerful colleague.

“We get shunted to the side, we don’t get our bills out, we’re not forceful about it. I guess that argues for term limits. Sometimes people stay just too long,” the senator added.

Some colleagues are frustrated the Appropriations Committee has become what they see as a rubber stamp for the Obama administration’s priorities. It does not wield the same clout it did under former Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) during the George W. Bush administration, they say.

“The Appropriations Committee, we’re not doing anything — it’s been staff-run now for almost seven years. Staff can do a good job, but you still have to have somebody who guides and directs it,” the senator said.

The senator said the committee needs to regain some of its stature by establishing more independence from the Obama administration.

“What we’ve been doing over the past few years is, ‘Well, here’s what the White House wants, so that’s what we do.’ Well, sometimes we ought to say we’re not doing that, we’re doing something else. Let the White House know we decide how to spend the money, not them,” the lawmaker said.

*Update: U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., issued a statement calling it “cowardly” for a colleague to anonymously criticize Inouye’s tenure as chairman.

Senator Inouye is larger than life – he’s a giant of the Senate, a true American hero, and I’m honored to call him my good friend and mentor. Dan exemplifies what it means to be a public servant and has fought more for our country and his state than almost anyone I know.

He is a highly effective chairman, respected by everyone on both sides of the aisle. He fought back against proposed cuts in the Ryan budget, and in a very a partisan environment, enacted all twelve of his bills for the 2012 Fiscal Year. And just this week, he turned over a disaster relief request from the President into a finished bill to help so many states and families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. These are no small feats.

It is just cowardly that a colleague would make such outrageous suggestions about Senator Inouye’s tenure, and yet refuse to give their name as the source. It is truly a new low around here and deeply disappointing.

One of the many things I have learned from Dan is that you always need to keep fighting for what you believe in. He has done that to the highest degree throughout his life and it will no doubt continue throughout his service in the Senate. We need more people in Congress with Dan’s character and integrity, not fewer.