Friday, February 2, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 2, 2001

Hawai'i's senators join minority on Ashcroft vote

By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Hawaii Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka, who had kept mum about how they would vote on John Ashcroft’s nomination, yesterday voted against their former colleague as attorney general.

The two Democrats joined 40 other members of their party in opposing President Bush’s most controversial Cabinet appointment. Both said it was a difficult decision because of the argument that the president has the right to choose his Cabinet and his choices should be respected.

In the end, Inouye said he disagreed with too many of Ashcroft’s positions to vote for him. Akaka, who has maintained a personal friendship with the former senator from Missouri, could not get beyond Ashcroft’s record on civil rights.

Inouye said in a statement that "if I supported the nomination of Sen. Ashcroft, my vote may be misunderstood not only by my supporters and constituents, but by many others."

Inouye said he opposes Ashcroft’s views on abortion rights and the death penalty. Also, "Sen. Ashcroft’s actions in the area of civil rights raise questions as to his commitment to preserving the civil rights of all Americans."

Akaka said in a statement: "To my mind, protecting the civil rights of all Americans is the most important responsibility entrusted to the attorney general.

"After reviewing John Ashcroft’s career record on civil rights, including his opposition to the nomination of Bill Lann Lee to be assistant attorney general for civil rights and Susan Oki Mollway and Ronnie White to the federal bench, I remain concerned about the nominee’s sensitivity in discharging this critical responsibility."

Because of objections by Ashcroft and others, the Senate never voted on the appointment of Lee, an Asian American. President Clinton later appointed him during a Senate recess.

Ashcroft led Republican senators in torpedoing the nomination of White, a black justice on the Missouri Supreme Court.

Ashcrof held up a Senate vote on Mollway, a Honolulu attorney whose eventual confirmation made her the first Asian-American woman to serve as a federal judge.

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