Hawaii’s congressional delegation ranked dead last in the country for its political influence, according to the latest Clout Index released by Roll Call last week.
Roll Call’s ranking, based on the delegation’s “total size, longevity, majority party representation and formal positions of power,” shows that Hawaii’s clout has plummeted since 2013, when the state claimed 19th spot.
The plunge, no doubt, reflects the consequence of a generational turnover. In 2012, the delegation lost the considerable political influence of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, a 40-year congressional veteran who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Three of the four current members of delegation — Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Horono, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — settled into their posts in January 2013, while Rep. Mark Takai assumed his post only this January.
The ranking typically benefits the most populated states, because they “generally amass the most seniority, have strength in numbers from the party in power (whichever one it is), claim the biggest shares of the powerful panel assignments and promote their own for leadership posts.”
California topped the ranking, followed by Texas, New York and Florida.
But Hawaii was outperformed by Alaska, whose population — at about 740,000 — is almost half that of Hawaii. Alaska was 47th in population but 32nd in the ranking.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, the Democrat of Hawaii, traveled with Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba
The senators, according to Hirono’s office, toured detention facilities, got an intelligence briefing and met with GITMO commanders and other personnel.
The senators “also talked with legal experts on the ground about the process by which detainees are tried through the military court system.”
Hirono, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a press release, “We cannot continue to operate Guantanamo Bay as an indefinite detention facility off U.S. shores. The continued operation of Guantanamo harms our national security interests, costs taxpayers far too much, undermines our role in the world as a human rights leader, and is used as a propaganda tool to recruit extremists. I will continue to work with the President and my colleagues to move forward on a path to close the detention facility at Guantanamo.”
Said Udall, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, “I have long called for the prison to be closed, and I’m extremely disappointed that rather than shutting it outright years ago, we are still holding more than 100 detainees awaiting trial or transfer. We must end this sad chapter of American history, and I’ll use my position on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to push to close Guantánamo for good.”
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama — who had promised in 2008
Hawaii veterans complained to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Tuesday about the reams of bureaucracy that often prevent them from getting timely access to health care and other services.
Among their concerns were the long waits to be seen by Veterans Affairs doctors, troubles traveling from the neighbor islands and an overall sense that their needs are being ignored by those whose job it is to serve them.
“The core issue may be one of attitude,” said Victor Craft, a Vietnam War veteran from Oahu. “The veteran is not a piece of paper to be shuffled through a never-ending corridor of administration. They are people.”
Hirono held a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in Honolulu to address the concerns of Hawaii residents who served in the armed forces.
Attendees included Craft and several other veterans, including Hawaii Army National Guard Capt. Elisa Smithers, who said she was a combat veteran who has struggled with alcoholism, nightmares and violent outbursts ever since serving tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait.
VA officials and others involved in providing medical services to the military also testified during the hearing to explain what they’re doing to help ease the burden on veterans, particularly those living in Hawaii.
In June, the VA released an internal audit showing average wait times for incoming patients. Hawaii’s VA system was the
Schatz and Gabbard each got a bill passed, Hanabusa co-sponsored a lot of bipartisan measures and Hirono missed only one vote.
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