Maui News

Akaka: “Schatz Will be a Strong Progressive Voice for Hawaii”

December 27, 2012, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated December 27, 1:06 PM
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Vice President Joe Biden shakes the hand of newly sworn in US Senator Brian Schatz as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and senior US Senator Daniel Akaka (Hawaii) look on. Image courtesy C-SPAN.

[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q5QzT-ofIs /] By Wendy Osher

***video courtesy C-SPAN.

Vice President Joe Biden presided over the swearing in of Hawaii’s newest US senator, Brian Schatz, who arrived in Washington this morning.

The former lieutenant governor departed from Hawaii on Wednesday night in the company of President Barack Obama on Air Force One.

After taking his oath, senior US Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii stood before his colleagues to welcome Hawaii’s newest US senator.

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In his remarks, Sen. Akaka said, “Brian is a leader for Hawaii’s present and our future, and I welcome him with much aloha pumehana–which is warm love.”

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“Senator Schatz arrived in Washington in a sad time as we continue to mourn the loss of our champion senator Dan Inouye. Dan Inouye will always be a legend in Hawaii–he will never be replaced,” said Sen. Akaka.

Sen. Akaka said Sen. Inouye’s legacy must be honored by working together for the people of Hawaii.

Akaka thanked US Senator Schatz for volunteering for what he called an “incredible responsibility.” After learning of his appointment yesterday, with little time to spare, he jumped on a plane for today’s swearing in ceremony.

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“We need him here now because we are facing a major challenge–one that regrettably has been created by congress and our inability to thus far compromise. The looming spending cuts and tax increases known as the fiscal cliff must be fixed within the next five days,” the senator said.

“I know that my colleagues will join me in supporting Senator Brian Schatz for the good of Hawaii,” said Akaka. “Throughout my 36 year in Congress, the Hawaii delegation has always been unified. We have always put Hawaii first before our individual ambition. We must continue that. Hawaii comes first.”

Sen. Akaka called Brian Schatz an “outspoken supporter” of the nation’s troops and veterans, and a defender of the environment.

Schatz served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives for eight years before becoming CEO of Helping Hands Hawaii–a non-profit organization that provides human services in the islands.  “As a lieutenant governor, he has been a big part of our community.”

Akaka said Senator Schatz will be a “strong progressive voice” for Hawaii in the US Senate. “He will advance freedom and equality.  He will be a strong voice on climate change, expanding clean renewable energy, and protecting our precious natural resources. He will defend native Hawaiians, and all of our nation’s first people–those Americans who exercised sovereignty on lands that later became part of the United States. He will uphold the values and priorities of our unique state.

“I say to my friend, the new junior senator from Hawaii, I will never forget that you are here with the solemn responsibility to do everything that you can to represent the people of Hawaii to make sure that their needs are addressed in every policy discussion, to speak up and seek justice for those who cannot help themselves.”

He concluded by saying, “God bless you Senator Schatz; God bless Hawaii; God bless the United States of America.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly offered follow-up commentary, praising Sen. Akaka for his demeanor saying, “Your presentation just now is typical for Dan Akaka–never a word about you, always about somebody else.”

“If the new senator has the qualities of you–the kindest, gentlest person I’ve ever served in this body with, it’s something that he should strive (for). The shoes that he has to fill, we all know, are significant to fill, but he can do that. And for you Sen. Akaka, these people on the floor, we’re going to miss you so much. You are a wonderful human being and have been a great senator,” said Sen. Reid.

Schatz is the sixth US senator to represent Hawaii. His movement to Washington leaves a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office.

The position is being considered by Senate President Shan Tsutsui of Maui, who is next in line of succession for the job. In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Tsutsui said he plans to discuss the prospect with the governor and his family before making a decision.

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