by Andrew Walden
UPDATE: Senate Dem leader drops nearly $1.3T spending bill (12-16-10)
It isn’t quite the Akaka Bill sneak attack that many have warned of in recent days, but on page 809-810 of the 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Senator Dan Inouye has slipped in a mandate to the US Department of the Interior:
SEC. 125. The Secretary of the Interior shall, with funds appropriated for fiscal year 2011, and in coordination with the State of Hawaii and those offices designated under the Hawaii State Constitution as representative of the Native Hawaiian community, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Attorney General of the United States, examine and make recommendations to Congress no later than September 30, 2011, on developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.
The US House has passed versions of the Akaka Bill several times but it has never passed the US Senate. If this language remains within the Appropriations Act and the bill is passed into law, it would mark the first time the US Senate has set the goal of “…developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe….” Moreover the language would put the US Senate on record as stating that such a tribe can be organized “within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.”
Dubbed, “The last feast“, before a new Congress possibly puts the kibosh on earmarks, the 1,924 page, the $1.1 trillion bill is being challenged by Senate Republican leaders. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee explains:
"The attempt by Democrat leadership to rush through a nearly 2,000-page spending bill in the final days of the lame-duck session ignores the clear will expressed by the voters this past election. This bill is loaded up with pork projects and should not get a vote. Congress should listen to the American people and stop this reckless spending.”
Chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee, Inouye told the Washington Times:
"While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full-year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people."
There have been no public hearings on the Akaka Bill in Hawaii since 2000 and Inouye’s earmark focuses the study on “those offices designated under the Hawaii State Constitution as representative of the Native Hawaiian community, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Attorney General of the United States.”
An unidentified Congressional source tells HawaiiReporter.com:
“If Inouye wants it to be a meaningful study, then it needs to be structured in a way that truly grapples with the legal, policy, and cultural questions in an organized fashion. Perhaps he does not really want that and instead is just tossing this study into the bill as an admission of defeat. If he wants it to work, then this isn’t the best way of doing it.”
A vote by the full Senate may come as early as Wednesday.
LINK: 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act
LINK: 2011 Continuing Resolution