Enabling language that would have been the first step toward federal recognition for native Hawaiians was left out of the $1 trillion-plus budget bill approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The provision would have recognized native Hawaiians as an indigenous people of the United States and began a process of self-determination and recognition similar to state legislation adopted earlier this year.
"This provision remained an active item of discussion between the members of the House and Senate Appropriations committee until the very end," U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it was opposed by members of the House, who wanted a variety of devastating anti-environmental riders which, if the Senate accepted, would have set back our nation’s air and water protections for many years to come.
"I am very disappointed to report that I was compelled to give up our recognition provision at the end of the conference. It was very difficult, but it needed to be done to conclude the negotiations and send an omnibus appropriations package to the president for his signature."
Negotiators reached an agreement last night on the omnibus budget package that pays for day-to-day budgets of 10 Cabinet departments and averts a government shutdown.
House members approved the budget by a 296-121 vote and sending it to the Senate, which was expected to pass it on Saturday. Lawmakers are also seeking compromise on separate legislation to renew jobless benefits and a cut in payroll taxes.
The language for native Hawaiians was being sought in the budget for the Department of the Interior.