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Key votes in Senate push Dems to action

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 06:22 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012

With potential votes to avert a fiscal cliff looming, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday urged Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye "with due haste."

The Senate convenes again on Thursday and could take votes to avoid the federal tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff that would otherwise take effect in January.

"It is critically important to ensure that the people of Hawaii are fully represented in the pivotal decisions the Senate will be making before the end of the year," Reid, D-Nevada, said in a statement.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii's state central committee will now meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the three nominees the party will send to Abercrombie for his consideration. The state central committee had initially scheduled the meeting for Friday evening, but moved the meeting up after hearing about Reid's concerns.

Abercrombie, according to his spokeswoman, had spoken to Reid by telephone last week and the majority leader had asked how soon the appointment could be made.

If Democrats forward the three names to Abercrombie on Wednesday, the governor would make the appointment "as soon as he is comfortable with it," according to Louise Kim McCoy, his spokeswoman.

Naming Inouye's successor and getting the appointee sworn in with enough time to vote on the fiscal cliff will require a precise bit of choreography.

The Senate could have votes as early as Thursday evening.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, Inouye's preference to succeed him, is scheduled to travel back to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday evening and would be in place to take the oath of office before Thursday if she were the one selected.

Others under consideration, such as Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, would have to quickly fly to Washington to get sworn in and make the votes.

The appointed senator will serve until voters in 2014 elect a senator to fill out the remainder of Inouye's term, which runs through 2016.

If the appointment is made early and the new senator is sworn in before the end of the year, the appointed senator would have the edge in seniority over the 12 new senators — including U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii — who were elected in November and are scheduled to take the oath on Jan. 3.

The appointed senator would be Hawaii's senior senator, while Hirono, who is replacing the retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, would be the junior senator.

If Abercrombie names Hanabusa or another Asian-American woman, she would be the first Asian-American woman, and just the second woman of color, to serve in the Senate. Hirono would otherwise have that distinction.

Dante Carpenter, the party's chairman, said Democrats agreed to change the meeting time because of the possibility that critical votes in the Senate could be taken before the end of the year.

"We're given to understand that there will be issues in Congress relating to the fiscal cliff (that) may occur before the year's end," he said. "And the (Senate) majority leader has indicated a pressing need to ensure a majority for their activities."

If the state central committee's more than 75 members do not have a quorum on Wednesday morning, an executive committee of about a dozen members, including Carpenter, would select the three nominees.

According to an email sent to state central committee members outlining the proposed rules for the special meeting, each candidate who applies before the application deadline on Monday will have up to two minutes to address the committee on Wednesday. There will be no question-and-answer period.

After the candidates have spoken, the state central committee will go into executive session, where members can speak for or against a candidate for up to one minute each during a 30-minute discussion.

The committee will then hold a roll call vote, where each member can vote for three candidates. The final three will be determined by a plurality of votes. If there is a tie for the third spot, each member will get one vote to break the deadlock.

"There's no question that this is kind of a crisis time and everybody has to just suck it up and rise up to the occasion, I think," said John Buckstead, a Hawaii County Democrat who serves on the state central committee. "It's unfortunate. It's very unfortunate that we got to this point. But here we are."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Lindall wrote:
Neil........ PLEASE Don't appoint Hanabusa if you care at all for the future of our wonderful state. When I was a resident of her district I can tell you that she never did anything to help us. I called her many, many times for a problem and did not even receive a callback or any response at all. NOT EVEN ONCE! PLease consider our request because we have had personal experience with this woman.
on December 23,2012 | 04:34AM
looking4u wrote:
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, is the best one for the job Sen. Daniel Inouye had been in touch with her for the past two years knowing the condition he was in, and wants her to carry on his work. Other wise he would not have recommended her to Gov. Abercrombie
on December 23,2012 | 06:43AM
allie wrote:
yup..phony lady
on December 23,2012 | 12:48PM
KeithHaugen wrote:
It is expected that the Governor will give a lot of thought to the recommendation of Senator Inouye, but it would be better if the Democratic Party and the Governor would look at a replacement with some Washington experience. Looking at all those who are interested and being considered, it appears that Esther Kia`aina has the most D.C. experience and the most Washington savvy. I realize it is a purely political appointment, but Kia`aina's name should be among the top three and Governor Abercrombie, who knows the value of D.C. experience, should pick her.
on December 23,2012 | 02:48PM
wiliki wrote:
Yes.... the Party needs to hurry and come up with a short list for the Governor.
on December 23,2012 | 08:12AM
Jsato wrote:
There are many qualified candidates, but Tulsi would be the best choice. She ran quite the campaign this past year and trounced Mufi even though she was considered the underdog. She's proven she has the campaign and fundraising skills to run a strong campaign and win. She'll also have the opportunity to regain Hawaii's seniority that was lost in the Senate.
on December 23,2012 | 10:17AM
wiliki wrote:
She hasn't proven that her lack of experience will make her serve any better...
on December 23,2012 | 11:44AM
Riverwalk wrote:
It's important to note too that if Colleen is appointed, Charles Djou is likely to be elected into her seat. Tulsi could be an interesting choice.
on December 23,2012 | 12:03PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Our should not be appointing someone who in 10-20 years will be able to effect change. Have we not learned that career politicians are more trouble than a lack of seniority. We need an appointee who can hit the ground running. That will be one of the arguments used in support of Hanabusa. The real reason of course is that she has the support of the big business hitters (e.g., First Hawaiian, HEI, et. al.) and the dying wish of Senator Inouye. She's a lock.

Mufi would actually be a wise choice but he is in a bad spot right now in terms of public perception. He actually has the chops to do the job with a relatively short learning curve and has executive experience which is a good balance to add for a legislative post.

Since the issues surrounding lunch wagon parking in DC have been long settled, Tulasi has little specific legislative experience to add to the mix. She can serve for awhile and maybe build up some cred then later take a shot at higher office.

on December 23,2012 | 12:06PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Hanabusa should be appointed so we can watch the strained faces and faux politeness between her and Hirono. They don't like each other much. That would be excellent entertainment.

Hehe. A restrained kepani cat fight.

on December 23,2012 | 08:54AM
wiliki wrote:
I disagree... I don't see any evidence that they can't work together....
on December 23,2012 | 11:46AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Then you don't know them.
on December 23,2012 | 11:58AM
Wazdat wrote:
haha, yes that about sums up Hawaii's FUTURE in DC. SAD
on December 23,2012 | 11:52AM
MightyMakiki wrote:
Senator Donna Mercado Kim should be highly considered. She would best serve Hawaii's Republicans, which are left out of this mess. Mahalo
on December 23,2012 | 10:07AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
"She would best serve Hawaii's Republicans"... which is why there is zero chance of her appointment.
on December 23,2012 | 10:30AM
Mythman wrote:
Forget all that the first this the first that, put Brian in there so he and Neil can get it done.........
on December 23,2012 | 01:19PM
tim5fl wrote:
The best candate is Tulsi !
on December 23,2012 | 01:55PM
BaySurfer wrote:
I agree with Jsato. This is much bigger than politics. Tulsi Gabbard has the same mana'o as Inouye, and would have the best chance to fill void left by the late senator.
on December 23,2012 | 02:35PM
Anonymous wrote:
Tulsi does have the military experience and national limelight.
on December 23,2012 | 02:50PM
Anonymous wrote:
Lanikaula wrote: Well, let the games begin: speculating. Everyone seems to know something. i understand that there was a name of a 'darkhorse' mentioned in recent news whom i KNOW has THE most experience & knowledge of the "pu'u i'ole", the 'hill rats'...Esther Kia'aina. She's been there longer then ANY of the current reps. Having been mentored by previous & almost previous senators, having the knowledge of creating and shepherding bills, acquainted w/the dynamics, mechanics & personalities, she has walked the halls through Congress for over 20 years. She would be the perfect, non-baggaged rep. The reason she seems to be unknown here in Hawaii is the reason why the aforementioned is important to understand. it's not like she's unaware of the 'politics' here. Having this 'pono', balance/experience here in Hawaii and there in Congress is very important. Our recent retiree reps have spent too much time, yearning to get back to Congress and instead only 'visited' their island home and constituents in Hawai'i occasionally...a 'disconnect' that bred cronyism leadership and decisions. People, voters have become disinterested and therefore some 'bad laws' detrimental to some in particular the Native Hawaiians have led to an EMPTY Apology Bill and a divisive Akaka Bill, not counting the Newlands Resolution of Annexation, the Organic Act & facade of a Statehood Act under these recent representatives, retired and expired. Peace be with them and their families, but now its time to quit turning the other way and confront THE most divisive longstanding issue: Hawai'i, The ILLUSION of Reality under American Occupation. Let's have that Reconciliation that was guaranteed by Sec 1 (4)&(5) of the Apology Bill & the recommendations by the DOI/DOJ now without the BS 'coverups', present ALL sides, facts; HOALA HOU, reawaken & Huliau and make them PONO! NO moa da 'ole boy networkers now...now what?! Divest and 'bag' like all the other carpet-baggers billionaires in america are doing?? Guilt? no like pay moa taxes? Hang around and RE-build ALL your 'claimed' country from Maine to Hawaii and maybe world support w/rebound to your honored country that you fought or served and died for allegedly in the name of, for & by THE PEOPLE! Ua mau ke 'ea o ka 'aina i ka pono! LIVE IT!
on December 23,2012 | 03:33PM
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