Inouye, Third in Line to Presidency, Backs Hawaii Separatism

Monday, 28 Jun 2010 04:05 PM

By Jim Meyers

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With the death of longtime Sen. Robert Byrd, the position of president pro tempore of the Senate — third in line to the presidency — has gone to Daniel Inouye, who staunchly supports a bill that would in effect create two Hawaiis.

Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, died Monday morning at age 92, and Hawaii Democrat Inouye, 85, was sworn in as the president pro tem early Monday afternoon because he is now the longest-serving member of the majority party.

Inouye was first elected in 1962, and as president pro tem, he is constitutionally recognized as third in line to the presidency behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Inouye backs the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which has passed the House and awaits consideration in the Senate. The bill would create two Hawaiis, one governed by the state of Hawaii and the other governed by those who identify themselves as natives — direct lineal descendants of Hawaiians before Hawaii was annexed to the United States in 1898.

According to the 2000 Census, 401,162 people identified themselves as being "native Hawaiian" alone or in any combination, and 140,652 people identified themselves as being "native Hawaiian" alone.

The new government of native Hawaiians would be autonomous yet have no geographic borders, with its citizens living under separate laws and institutions throughout Hawaii and the United States, Newsmax magazine reported in the May issue.

In effect, native Hawaiians would become a tribe and have the ability to levy taxes and exercise eminent domain.

The bill would also grant native Hawaiians the right to negotiate for control over 1.8 million acres of land that the federal government ceded to the state when Hawaii was granted statehood in 1959.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece published in late February, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow — members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — said the bill “might turn out to be this Congress’ single most calamitous decision.”

But Inouye has been one of the bill’s most ardent supporters. During an August 2009 Senate hearing on the bill, he noted in a statement that he and fellow Hawaiian Sen. Daniel Akaka “have worked tirelessly” on the bill “for the past 10 years.”

He also cited the “illegal overthrow” of the native Hawaiian government by the U.S. in 1893, and stated:

“As one who has served the citizens of Hawaii for over 50 years, as a member of the Territorial Legislature, a member of Congress, and now a member of the United States Senate, I believe that there is broad-based support in our State for what the Native people are seeking, full restoration of the government to government relationship they had with the United States . . .

“Reconciliation is long overdue and I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and my colleagues to ensure that the Native Hawaiian people are given their right to self-determination and self-governance back.”
Among the bill’s other supporters: President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii.

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