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.