In Congress, Hanabusa serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. She also serves on a number of subcommittees, and more than one dozen caucuses.
On May 2, 2013, Hanabusa announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Brian Schatz. Schatz was appointed to the position in December 2012 following the death of Daniel K. Inouye; Inouye had asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa, his favored successor.
Hanabusa, a fourth-generation Japanese American, was born May 4, 1951, and was raised in Waianae on Oahu's leeward coast. She earned a B.A. in economics and sociology and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
In 1977 Hanabusa received a J.D. from the William S. Richardson School Law, a part of the Manoa campus. She has worked as a labor attorney for more than three decades.
In 1998 Hanabusa was elected to state Senate District 21, which covers Waianae, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Makaha and Makua. During her 12 years in the Legislature, she served as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Agriculture, was a member of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, and was vice-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Hanabusa later served as Senate Majority Leader and in 2006 was named by her colleagues the Senate president. She was re-elected in 2008 to represent District 21 for another four-year term.
As Senate President, Colleen Hanabusa was the first woman to lead the Senate in Hawaii history and the first Asian-American woman to preside over a United States legislative chamber in the United States.
Hanabusa is a loyal Democrat, and rarely votes against her party's majority. However, in her first eight months in Congress, Hanabusa crossed the aisle to vote with a Republican majority more often than any of her congressional colleagues from Hawaii. In the 5 percent of the time that Hanabusa voted with a Republican majority, it related to approving defense appropriations.