Colleen Hanabusa, the former state Senate president, was sworn in yesterday as urban Honolulu’s new congresswoman.
Hanabusa took the oath of office from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as her mother, June, and husband, John Souza, watched from the House gallery.
Hanabusa said the swearing-in ceremony had a different feel than opening day of the state Legislature, with its traditional lei and music, but she said she was excited to be where the laws of the nation are made. It is the first time Hanabusa will be part of the minority, because Democrats were in control during her 12 years in the state Senate. She is one of just nine Democrats among the 94 freshmen House members.
"I never lose sight of the fact that I represent Hawaii. So my short-term goal is to do whatever I can to ensure that the economic growth in Hawaii continues," the 59-year-old Waianae Coast Democrat said.
Hanabusa said restoring public confidence in the national economy is also important because Hawaii relies on tourism. She also said she would continue to seek federal spending for the islands, which has been a stabilizing force during the recession.
Hanabusa said she will oppose the House GOP’s move to repeal the health care reform law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last year. She called the planned vote by Republicans mostly symbolic, because majority Democrats in the U.S. Senate do not favor a repeal.
"It’s just a symbolic vote, something that, I think, many of them ran on and they’ve got to deliver on," she said.
Hanabusa has been assigned offices in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill but is awaiting her committee assignments. She has requested Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Armed Services, and Oversight and Government Reform.
She said she is not optimistic about getting a coveted seat on Appropriations, which oversees federal spending.
Jonah Kaauwai, the state Republican Party chairman, said Hanabusa was failing to fulfill a campaign promise, since U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye said in October that he had spoken to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about putting Hanabusa on Appropriations. Pelosi lost the speaker title after Republicans took control of the House and is now minority leader.
"Rep. Hanabusa and Senator Inouye assured voters last October that she would get a seat on the powerful Appropriation Committee if elected and that has turned out to be nothing more than an empty campaign promise," Kaauwai said in a statement.
Hanabusa took over the seat held by Charles Djou, a Republican who won a May special election over Hanabusa and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case to fill out the remainder of Neil Abercrombie’s term in the 1st Congressional District. Hanabusa defeated Djou for the new two-year term in November.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, was also sworn in yesterday, beginning her third term representing the 2nd Congressional District, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
In the Senate, Inouye was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden for his ninth six-year term. Inouye is the Senate president pro tempore, the senior member of the chamber and third in line to the presidency.