by Andrew Walden
A new version of the Akaka Bill was introduced yesterday in the US Senate by Sen. Dan Akaka (D-HI). In accordance with Senate rules, the new bill, designated S. 3945, was read twice on the Senate floor and then referred to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. A text of S. 3945 is not yet available.
(Update Nov 17 8:30AM HST: Text of S3945 is not yet available, but Jesse Broder van Dyke of Akaka’s office tells Hawai'i Free Press the bill was introduced in order to show in the Congressional Record that Akaka was upholding his July agreement with Governor Lingle. This implies that S3945 is a pro-forma effort. The introduction of S3945 further implies that S1011 will not be reaching the Senate floor where Akaka would have been able to uphold his agreement with Lingle by introducing an amendment in the form of a substitution.)
(Update Nov 18: Full text of S 3945 is now available >>> HERE. The Star-Advertiser got around to covering this story this morning >>> HERE. We at Hawai'i Free Press understand their difficulty in getting to all the big news stories with a paltry 500 people on staff.)
The Indian Affairs Committee will be meeting Thursday, November 18 in Dirksen Senate Hearing Room 628 at 9:30 Am EST for a “Business Meeting on Pending Committee Issues”. Neither S. 3945, nor the version of the Akaka Bill previously passed by Indian Affairs, S. 1011, is included on the agenda. The business meeting is to be followed by a hearing on an unrelated bill.
The US Senate is currently holding a “lame duck” session scheduled to recess before Thanksgiving, November 25. Senators are likely to re-convene in early December and recess for the last time before Christmas. No meetings of the Indian Affairs committee are yet scheduled for December.
Sen. Inouye November 3 described the Akaka Bill as “not one of the so called priority measures” and characterized it’s chances of passage as “bad.”
If the language of S. 3945 is congruent with the changes negotiated with Governor Lingle last July, and is placed on the agenda and then passed by Indian Affairs on Thursday, the bill would have to be passed by the full Senate and then would have to go to Conference committee to work out the discrepancies between S 3945 and the Abercrombie “instant tribal jurisdiction” version of the Akaka Bill passed by the US House on the day Abercrombie resigned. Several Republican Senators have placed “holds” on S. 1011 preventing it from reaching the Senate floor. It is nearly certain that the same GOP Senators will also put a hold on S. 3945 should it ever emerge from Committee.
Sen. Inouye could also attempt to surreptitiously attach the new version of the Akaka Bill to must-pass legislation, such as an extension of the Bush tax cuts, something he has pledged not to do. Inouye is the only listed co-sponsor of S. 3945.
With Americans reasserting control over the House and gaining ground in the Senate, chances for the Akaka Bill in future Congresses look dim. Any measure not passed into law before January 3, 2011, when the new Congress convenes, must again start the process from the beginning.
Passage of the Akaka Bill would amount to the most significant change in Hawaii’s political system since Statehood. As usual these events have so far gone unreported by Hawaii news media and there is no news release or statement from the office of Senator Akaka or Inouye.
Ironically, the Akaka Bill was seen as having its best chance of passage ever with Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and President Obama having pledged in December, 2004, to support the Akaka Bill in exchange for the early-money Hawaii fundraising which launched his Presidential campaign.
However Inouye offered no resistance as Abercrombie and Akaka re-wrote the bill to establish instant criminal and civil jurisdiction and limit membership to “Qualified Native Hawaiian Constituents” potentially excluding more than 73% of all Native Hawaiians. This maneuver, conducted behind the back of Governor Lingle, cost the Akaka Bill’s is last best chance for passage by forcing Lingle and Bennett to come out in opposition. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Inouye sabotaged the measure by allowing Akaka and Abercrombie to re-write it.
Hawai’i Free Press will further update this article when the text of S. 3945 becomes available.
REALITY: Akaka Bill: More than 73% of Hawaiians not "Qualified" for membership in Akaka Tribe,
MORE REALITY: Inouye: “Odds of passing the Akaka Bill are bad”
THOMAS: Bill Summary & Status 111th Congress (2009 - 2010) S.3945
GOV TRACK: S. 3945: A bill to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians
Congressional Record: November 15, 2010 US Senate PDF
By Mr. AKAKA (for himself and Mr. INOUYE):
S. 3945. A bill to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians and to provide a process for the recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.