U.S. Rep. Charles Djou bade goodbye to Congress yesterday, saying he has no current plans to seek political office and challenging his successor to pick up where he left off in securing federal funding for Honolulu’s $5.5 billion rail transit project.
Djou, a Republican, said he has secured commitments for Honolulu’s rail funding from the GOP leadership and that it is up to U.S. Rep.-elect Colleen Hanabusa to follow up.
"If the future 112th Congress fails to secure all the rail funding, it’s the fault of this delegation," Djou said at a farewell news conference on the steps of the federal building in Honolulu. "The commitments are there. … If rail funding doesn’t come through, we have to lay the blame at the hands of Colleen Hanabusa and the rest of Hawaii’s congressional delegation."
Hanabusa will be sworn in Wednesday.
Djou made similar statements about advancing the Akaka Bill — to grant federal recognition of native Hawaiians — saying he believes he had enough GOP support to get the legislation passed in the Republican-controlled House next year.
Hanabusa thanked Djou for his service to the state and said she hopes Djou will continue serving the public.
"I would assume once one starts in public service, one will continue to be in public service," Hanabusa said from Washington. "I’m certain that he will do whatever he feels he could do to assist in that process.
"I think I would have hoped to have heard from Charles more of a continuing commitment to the people of the state versus a statement instead that if it’s not him then it’s not going to work."
Honolulu officials and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye have pegged the federal government’s financial commitment to the rail project at $1.55 billion.
Djou said he worked with GOP leaders to ensure Honolulu would receive its "fair share" of federal money, but he had yet to receive a commitment from the Federal Transit Administration on the exact amount.
He said he expects all new spending to come under heavy scrutiny as Congress works to pass the fiscal year 2011 budget as well as the 2012 budget.
"I don’t think it’s about rail, per se, as much as the new 112th Congress is going to be very focused on reducing spending overall," Djou said. "They are going to be targeting all new projects, whether it’s rail or airports or anything."
On the Akaka Bill, Djou said he had secured commitments from enough Republicans that he believes he would have been able to push the measure through, similar to how Gov. Neil Abercrombie previously managed it through a GOP-controlled House when he was a member of Congress.
Hanabusa said Djou’s statements did not recognize the difficulty in getting legislation through both chambers of Congress and the president, but said she hopes Djou will work to serve the public interest.
"If he believes he has those commitments, then I call upon him to call upon them (GOP leaders) to keep their word to him," she said. "The bottom line is it’s for the people of Hawaii."
Inouye, through a spokesman, said, "I thank Congressman Djou for his service to Hawaii and the nation, and I wish him well in his future endeavors."