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Djou defends call for Jones Act waiver

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On his first trip back home, newly elected U.S. Rep. Charles Djou yesterday defended his call for a waiver of the Jones Act to allow foreign-flagged ships to respond to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and his use of taxpayer-funded automated phone calls to connect with Hawaii voters.

With his parents by his side yesterday, Djou celebrated Father’s Day by opening his Honolulu congressional office in an otherwise empty federal building in downtown Honolulu, then got back on a plane for Washington, D.C., to rejoin his wife and two daughters.

Djou, a Republican representing Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, drew national attention almost immediately after winning his May 22 special election when he said the Jones Act — a favorite target of Republicans in Hawaii — was preventing foreign-flagged ships from helping out with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The White House fired back by saying there was no need for a waiver of the Jones Act for the clean-up because it already was getting help from ships from countries such as Norway, Canada and The Netherlands.

Yesterday, after a blessing of his new Honolulu office, Djou said he agreed with President Obama "that we need to do whatever it takes to stop this leak, clean up the mess and hold BP accountable. I’m in agreement with the president. That’s exactly what we need to do. We should not leave a single arrow in our quiver to make sure we stop this environmental disaster. One of the things that’s important to do is waive the Jones Act. And that’s why I was happy in joining my colleagues from the Gulf Coast states in calling for this waiver."

Djou campaigned on promises of controlling federal spending and yesterday defended his use of automated phone calls to Hawaii voters as the most junior member of Congress.

"Of course, I’m very newly elected," Djou said. "For a lot of my constituents, they don’t know how to contact me. … As soon as I got in, I needed to communicate with my constituents."

Djou saw his Honolulu office for the first time Saturday.

He and his young family had been staying in the Holiday Inn outside of Reagan National Airport. They’ve since moved into a month-to-month rental in a "gigantic apartment complex" in Crystal City where they sleep on air mattresses, Djou said.

"It has been an exhilarating, exciting and, yes, sometimes exhausting one month for me," he said.

The girls will return to Honolulu for school in the fall as Djou campaigns for re-election in November. Until then, he said, "forget that Dad got elected to Congress. … For them, seeing the pandas (at the National Zoo) was the highlight."

Djou plans to return to Honolulu with his family for the Fourth of July weekend, when he will begin a series of eight "talk story" sessions with constituents around Oahu.

Until the August congressional recess, Djou plans to fly back and forth to Honolulu every week.

He’s already figured out that he will spend 72 hours in Washington every week, 72 hours in Honolulu and 24 hours in the air — "that’s when I’ll sleep," he said.


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