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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 2:28 p.m., Monday, July 18, 2005

Debate on Akaka bill delayed in Senate

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

WASHINGTON — The debate on a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill in the U.S. Senate has been delayed because Republican leaders have not reached an agreement on how to proceed.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, had hoped that the bill would reach the floor today. Akaka and U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, are now pressing for a debate sometime this week.

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who has been the bill's main opponent, is working with other Republicans on possible amendments. Republican leaders have promised Akaka and Inouye for a vote on the bill by August.

"We're still striving for that agreement," Akaka said.

The bill would formally recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people and create a process for Hawaiians to form their own government.

Opponents argue that it would separate people based on race.

If a Senate vote is delayed beyond this week it would make it difficult to bring the bill up in the House before the August recess.

Gov. Linda Lingle met with White House officials today and started talking with Republican senators to try to help Akaka and Inouye move the bill forward.

"I tell them that the Akaka bill is a matter of simple justice and fairness for the Native Hawaiian people, to allow them to begin a process that they can set up an entity to make certain that they have authority over their own lands and their resources," she said.