by Andrew Walden
Once again Hawaii may be saved from the immune-from-prosecution rump Akaka Tribe by Republican US Senators from other states. With Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) dead and buried, and sometime Akaka Bill supporter Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) facing strong opposition in the August 24 Alaska GOP Primary, Sen Akaka finds himself short on votes and short on time.
This fall Democrats are widely expected to lose ground in both the US House and the US Senate—possibly losing control of one or both chambers. Hence today’s Star-Advertiser decision to reveal on the front page some of the secret Akaka Tribe negotiations among Hawaii’s so-called elites. Here is the annotated version rearranged for your reading pleasure:
The Senate will be in recess for much of August and has a full plate of spending bills and other matters in September. The Senate is likely to break in October as many senators return home to campaign in the November elections.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka has been advised he must act quickly on a native Hawaiian federal recognition bill or lose the chance to bring it to a vote before the November elections change the political composition of the Senate.
Jennifer Goto Sabas, the chief of staff in Honolulu to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said Akaka's staff has been told that waiting until September could be too late. The best chance, she said, is to try to bring the bill to the Senate floor this month.
To be fair, Hawaii has heard this “now or never” claim almost every year since the Akaka Bill was first introduced in 2000. This timeline is part of an effort to pressure those on Akaka’s staff, in OHA, and at UH who are holding out for the “instant Indian tribe” version (with instant immunity from prosecution for drug dealers, trustees, mafia, and other fine worthies designated by the Tribe) which was forced through the House as Neil Abercrombie’s final act and is currently before the Senate as S1011. Instant immunity from prosecution is an key goal of the Akaka Tribe. The Akaka Bill was first introduced the wake of the Broken Trustees being ousted by the IRS an effort to create a tribal jurisdiction to shield future Trustees from future State or Federal investigations.
Here is the argument for compromise by the Akaka Tribe. The “allies” are likely Inouye staffers. The “sources” are likely Akaka staffers. The “attorneys” are likely on the OHA payroll:
Akaka, the bill's main sponsor, also has been told privately by allies that he should consider amendments to win back the support of Gov. Linda Lingle and help attract moderate Senate Republicans. But sources familiar with the negotiations question whether the Republican governor could deliver any additional GOP votes.
Two attorneys close to Inouye, Akaka and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs have discussed potential amendments with state Attorney General Mark Bennett in the hopes Lingle will again support the bill. The draft language has been provided to Akaka's staff.
"What we expressed was that if the language that we discussed were put in the bill, then we would continue to support native Hawaiian sovereignty and the bill," Bennett said.
And here is the argument against compromise. These “sources” are likely Akaka staffers:
(S)ources familiar with the discussions said Lingle's previous support was not enough to overcome Senate Republican and Bush administration opposition. If the Senate adopts an amended version, the bill would also have to be reconciled with the version that passed the House in February.
(S)ources familiar with the negotiations question whether the Republican governor could deliver any additional GOP votes.
The GOP’s warning to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was revealed June 16 in the little-read On Politics Blog which the Star-Advertiser has so far kept on the old Star-Bulletin site:
We respectfully request that you give careful consideration to our concerns before seeking to carve out time on an already busy Senate calendar for this bill.
In fairness, we want you to know that we would oppose cloture on a motion to proceed. In the unlikely event that cloture nonetheless should be invoked, we would expect a lengthy debate and open amendment process that allows us to make changes necessary to protect the nation from the harms this bill would bring.
In other words the Republicans are promising to filibuster—which requires 60 votes to break--and are promising to force vote after vote on amendments to the bill in the unlikely event that a filibuster is broken. And Akaka also has to contend with disinterest on the part of his Democrat colleagues:
Akaka would like commitments from more than 60 senators as insurance against any absences on the Senate floor.
The real question that should be asked is: Why did Sen. Inouye allow Akaka and Abercrombie to charge forward with the “instant immunity from prosecution” version of the Akaka Bill which also creates a political definition for tribal membership which will exclude the 73% of native Hawaiians who decline to sign OHA’s highly controversial Kau Inoa?
By allowing these changes, Inouye let Abercrombie and Akaka snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a Congress where the Democrats had finally captured everything. Inouye’s acquiescence to Akaka and Abercrombie’s demands--which Inouye probably had to brush back every year since 2000--may have been designed to force into the open the true nature of the Akaka gang’s goals for the public and Hawaii’s elite to see.
Sound far fetched? It is all exposed in print. Inouye’s Honolulu chief Sabas is looking at her watch saying “this month”. Akaka and his staff don’t want to change the bill and they have plenty of answers about why it isn’t going to pass anyway to those who say “now or never”.
SA: Don't dally with bill, Akaka told
On Politics: Firm Opposition
SOME REALITY FOR THOSE WHO DARE:
Akaka Bill: More than 73% of Hawaiians not "Qualified" for membership in Akaka Tribe
Lingle to Senators: “Please reject current version of Akaka Bill”