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Federal Recognition
John Fund: Defeat for Sen. Akaka on Hawaiians

"A longtime wheelhorse of Hawaii's rusting Democratic machine could lose his U.S. Senate seat because of what happened on the Senate floor Thursday. For six years Sen. Daniel Akaka's signature legislation was a bill that would give Native Hawaiians their own race-based, sovereign government, much as many mainland Indian tribes have. But last week, by a vote of 56-41, the Senate fell short of mustering the needed 60 votes to bring his bill to a formal vote.

The bill's failure opens up the 81-year-old Mr. Akaka to charges that he is ineffective and increasingly irrelevant. His primary battle this September against Rep. Ed Case now becomes a real dogfight between a reflexively liberal incumbent and a much more moderate challenger.

Supporters of the Akaka bill are privately concerned that their champion put in such a weak performance pushing their pet legislative priority. Hawaii TV viewers who caught the Senate debate saw a tentative and lackluster performance by the senator. It reminded many that last April, Time magazine listed Mr. Akaka as one of the five worst senators, calling him "living proof that experience does not necessarily yield expertise." It dismissed him as "a master of the minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee."

It doesn't surprise political observers in Hawaii that Mr. Akaka is ducking invitations to debate Mr. Case. Honolulu Advertiser columnist David Shapiro says that a debate for the incumbent "could be disastrous if he were to stumble and show his age . . . but if Akaka ducks Case, he risks leaving the impression that he doesn't have enough left to stand up to the pressure of tough questioning.""

Get the Story:
John Fund: Aloha, Akaka (The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal 6/12)

Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill:
Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005 (S.147)

Civil Rights Commission Report:
The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005 (May 2006)

Civil Rights Commission Transcript:
January 20, 2006 Meeting

Rice v. Cayetano Resources:
Abstract, Audio and More

Rice v. Cayetano Election Rights Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion | Concurrence Dissent (Stevens) | Dissent (Ginsburg)

Senate Republican Policy Paper:
Why Congress Must Reject Race-Based Government for Native Hawaiians (June 2005)

Relevant Links:
US Commission on Civil Rights -
Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition Site -

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