Rep. Tulsi Gabbard weighed in today on the IRS scandal, conservative groups in Hawaii and around the country, received extra scrutiny by the agency.
“I am shocked and disappointed by the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of certain groups. It exposes a problem that lies not just with a few ‘bad apples,’ but rather a systemic problem with a culture that condoned this type of illegal targeting,” she said in a statement. “The IRS and all government agencies have a duty and obligation to apply our laws equally, regardless of political, ethnic, religious affiliation or whether they have exercised their First Amendment rights to criticize the government.”
She said President Barack Obama “has taken first steps to remove those responsible, but more must be done.”.
Read the reaction of two Hawaii Tea Party groups involved in the mess and the reaction of other members of the Congressional delegation here.
– Kery Murakami
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, President Barack Obama’s nominee for transportation secretary, told Sen. Brian Schatz he’d keep Honolulu’s rail project on track if he were to be confirmed, Schatz’s office said.
In a statement after their meeting, Schatz said, “Mayor Foxx informed me that the Department of Transportation transition will be seamless when it comes to the Honolulu rail project… Foxx understands the importance of Honolulu’s rail project and is committed to being our partner in seeing it to completion along with other transportation priorities that will create jobs in Hawaii, and give the people of Hawaii more transportation choices.”
Schatz, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said also, “As Mayor of Charlotte, Foxx expanded Charlotte’s public transit system, implemented street design guidelines that promote walking and bicycling, and expanded Charlotte’s airport. His experience and priorities align with those of Hawaii—economic growth, sustainability, and expansion of our transportation network.”
Foxx is scheduled to appear before the committee next week.
— Kery Murakami
Three bills pushed by Sen. Brian Schatz and Sen.Mazie Hirono to increase home ownership for Native Hawaiians cleared the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee earlier today.
Two of the measures would amend the Native Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA). One would expand housing program eligibility and succession authority to those who are one-quarter Hawaiian. Another authorizes the Hawaiian Homes Commission to set interest rates on home loans based on market conditions. Both were sponsored by Schatz and co-sponsored by Hirono.
The other measure, sponsored by Hirono, reauthorizes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant. This bill provides an avenue for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries to secure financing to purchase a home on Hawaiian Home Lands. Schatz, a member of the committe, co-sponsored the measure.
— Kery Murakami
The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed this morning to add another measure pushed by Sen. Mazie Hirono to the sweeping immigration bill.
The amendment is a relatively minor one in a bill that would create a path to citizenship and make changes to the long backlog of visa applications to bring family members to reunite with relatives in the U.S. However, Hirono said it could help increase tourism to Hawaii from Hong Kong.
“This small change to the visa waiver system could have a big impact on Hawaii’s economy,” said Hirono in a statement after the hearing. “By fixing the visa waiver process for visitors from Hong Kong, we can make it easier for thousands of tourists from this region to come to Hawaii.”
The provision would allow Hong Kong to be eligible for a program that allows tourists to be waived from having to getting visas when visiting the U.S. At a press conference in April, she noted that tourism increased when visa waivers were granted for other countries, most recently Taiwan. So much so, she said, that Hawaiian Airplines is planning on creating a non-stop flight between Honolulu and Taiwan.
Under the program, citizens of 37 participating countries, as determined by the State Department, are allowed to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, for stays of 90 days or less. Hirono at this morning’s hearing called the proposal a “technical fix” because Hong Kong is not a country. To qualify for the waiver, visitors must be coming for business, tourism, visiting or pleasure. Studying for credit, employment, working as foreign press, or seeking permanent residence isn’t allowed under the program.
The measure passed the committee in a 14-4 vote, despite objections from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that Hong Kong is connected to China, although he noted the two have very different systems of government. He argued that China does not take back immigrants who have committed crimes in the U.S.
The amendment is the fifth proposed by Hirono added ot the bill, as the Judiciary Committee continues to consider more than 300 proposed amendments. Hirono’s other amendments would make it easier for families caught trying to enter the U.S. at the border to stay together, empowers a Homeland Security official to protect the rights of people going through the immigration process, allows Compact of Free Association migrants to be able to get Medicaid, and allowing Hawaii longline fishing crews to get visas.
— Kery Murakami
Asked by NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt if people should lose their jobs over the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups including in Hawaii, Sen. Brian Schatz reportedly said yes.
Schatz apparently doesn’t dispute the report, retweeting Hunt’s tweet about the conversation.
— Kery Murakami
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa picked up the endorsement today of the Asian American Action Fund, a national PAC that works to get Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders elected to office.
In a release, the organization’s executive director Gautam Dutta cited her “distinguished and progressive record,” and as is increasingly becoming a common threat in Hanabusa’s campaign, cited the memory of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
Hanabusa had been Inouye’s choice to replace him in the Senate, but the spot went to Sen. Brian Schatz, who Hanabusa is challenging. Dutta said Hanabusa’s record “in the state Senate and in the U.S. House make her an outstanding candidate to succeed our dearly beloved Senator Inouye.”
The organization also highlighted the opportunity to for Hanabusa to join Sen. Mazie Hirono as the second Asian American woman in the U.S. Senate.
Aside from highlighting race in a state with a large Asian population, the endorsement could represent a financial boost for Hanabusa, who is trying to catch up with Schatz in campaign fundraising. The organization donated $10,000 to Hirono’s campaign last year, as well as $3,000 to Hanabusa last year and $6,150 in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the release, Hanabusa said, “I am truly honored to once again have AAA-Fund’s support in my campaign for the U.S. Senate. Their support made a key difference in my victory in 2010. I look forward to continuing to work with them on issues of critical importance to our AAPI communities, including passing immigration reform, recognizing Native Hawaiian sovereignty and fulfilling our obligations to our Filipino veterans.”
— Kery Murakami
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who may benefit from her ties to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye as she runs for his old seat against Sen. Brian Schatz, invoked Inouye’s name earlier today at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Inouye, of course, had wanted Hanabusa to replace him. While it remains to be seen how much the Inouye factor will play in her race, it doesn’t hurt to highlight opportunities to remind voters of Inouye’s wishes.
Speaking at the institute’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, which paid tribute to Inouye in a building named in his honor, Hanabusa said, “I am moved seeing Senator Inouye’s name on this state-of-the-art facility. It is a fitting tribute.
“He stood as its advocate because he knew from experience the importance of quality medicine and quality research,” Hanabusa said, according to a press release from her office. “He believed the care he received in military hospitals saved his life, and he worked tirelessly throughout his career to give back in any way he could.”
— Kery Murakami
U.S. Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard appeared together Sunday (May 12) on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. The topic was sexual assault in the military.
Read the story and view the video by clicking here. Excerpt:
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: These predators seek out people who are weak targets.
REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: Yes.
GABBARD: And, uh, I — I was not a weak target. So it’s not something that I experienced personally.
However, uh, my command was one that was — that — that did create this safe climate for people to be able to make those kinds of reports.
But you can’t make it based on, you know, the personalities or the strengths or weaknesses of any specific commander…
CROWLEY: The system has to be right.
GABBARD: — which is why the system has to be one that is safe…
GABBARD: — transparent and fair, holding people accountable.
DUCKWORTH: Right. …
Screen shot courtesy CNN.
The Hill has this story. Excerpts:
The House on Wednesday took a step toward passing a bill that would let the government borrow money above and beyond the debt ceiling to pay interest on the debt and for the Social Security Trust Fund.
Members approved a rule for the Full Faith and Credit Act, H.R. 807, in a party-line 226-199 vote. The rule calls for an hour of debate and consideration of one amendment — the House is expected to approve it later in the week.
Approval of the rule came after a sharp debate in which Republicans defended the bill as a way to ensure the government does not default on its debt, which is approaching $17 trillion, even if it bumps up against the debt ceiling.
There is some threat of a deadlock on the debt ceiling in the coming months. As of May 19, the debt ceiling will be in effect again, and and pressure will mount on Congress to find a way to raise that ceiling. …
Hawaii U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard voted with the minority.
In a statement, Hanabusa said, “This bill is evidence that my Republican colleagues did not learn from their mistakes in 2011 when they steered our nation towards default, resulting in the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history. This measure undermines the full faith and credit of the U.S., and as we saw in 2011, will slow job growth, drive up interest rates, and hurt our economic recovery. It also puts payments to foreign bondholders over the salaries of our troops, pensions and benefits for our veterans, small businesses that sell goods to our government, and doctors and hospitals who care for millions of Medicare patients nationwide. …”
From a press release Thursday (May 9):
During the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of immigration reform legislation, the committee adopted two of Senator Mazie K. Hirono’s measures that would protect families and strengthen our immigration system. …
The committee adopted Hirono’s “Protect Family Values at the Border Act” that would stop families from being torn apart at the border by allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider keeping families together during removal.
Right now, many families are torn apart at the border since current law requires many adult men to be transferred to a border location hundreds of miles away from where they were intercepted. Meanwhile, their families are simply sent back across the border at the place they were intercepted with no money and no idea of where their husbands or fathers were taken. …
The committee also approved another amendment offered by Hirono that would strengthen the Department of Homeland Security official charged with protecting the rights of those navigating the immigration system. …
Watch Hirono’s video remarks.
Courtesy Twitter and the federal government — US Dept of Interior @Interior (Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future):
From a press release Wednesday (May 8):
Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives today that promotes science education and celebrates scientific achievement by establishing an official Science Laureate of the United States. The Science Laureate would be a nationally renowned expert in their field who would travel around the country to inspire future scientists.
This new honorary position would be appointed by the President from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of 1-2 years. … Like the Poet Laureate, the Science Laureate would be an unpaid, honorary post. …
“As American students trail their international peers in STEM proficiency, the U.S. Science Laureate will be a national role model who can encourage students to learn more about the sciences,” said Hirono. “By elevating great American scientific communicators, we can empower students – especially girls and minorities – to get excited about science. …”
Original Senate cosponsors include Senators Ayotte (R-NH), Murray (D-WA), Cochran (R-MS), Gillibrand (D-NY), Udall (D-NM) and Boozman (R-AR).
Read Civil Beat’s story, Is Hawaii Doing Enough To Engage Kids In Science, Tech And Math?
Photo courtesy paigggeyy.
From a press release Tuesday (May 7):
Today, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) cosponsored the Filipino Veterans Promise Act to restore benefits to Filipino soldiers who fought alongside American troops in World War II. The legislation mandates that the Department of Defense – in coordination with military historians – establish a process to open the “Missouri List” to give Filipinos the opportunity to prove their service if they do not currently appear on the list.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is also a co-sponsor of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, which seeks to make all Filipino veterans fully eligible for the benefits that they were promised, and that U.S veterans already receive. …
More than 200,000 Filipinos fought with the United States during World War II, and more than half were killed. As citizens of a commonwealth of the U.S. before and during the war, Filipinos were legally American nationals, and were promised the same benefits afforded to members of the U.S. military.
Photo courtesy cliff1066™.
From a press release Tuesday (May 7):
U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) and U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) teamed up to introduce a bipartisan bill that would help Filipino veterans obtain the benefits they earned for their service to the United States during World War II.
The Filipino Veterans Promise Act authorizes the Department of Defense to establish an appeals process for Filipinos who have not been able to have their military service verified by the U.S. This bill gives these veterans the opportunity to have their records examined and verified by military historians so they can receive benefits. …
From a press release Tuesday (May 7):
Senator Mazie K. Hirono today filed her first four amendments to the immigration reform bill currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The four measures, long sought by Hawaii leaders, would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families, make it easier for foreign tourists to visit the islands, and help the Hawaii fishing industry. …
As the committee marks up and considers amendments to the immigration reform bill this month, Hirono expects to offer each of these amendments for a vote. If approved by the committee, the measures will be included in the immigration bill that is sent to the Senate floor. …
Photo courtesy Monica’s Dad.
As expected, EMILY’S List, a national PAC devoted to electing women, announced it will be endorsing Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in her race against Sen. Brian Schatz.
The PAC, in a press release, did not say how much it might throw toward Hanabusa, who after getting a late start on fundraising trails Schatz in that regard. However, the PAC’s support represents a major boost.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, EMILY’s LIst made $4.6 million in contributions to candidates last year and spent $7.7 million independently, most to defeat their candidates’ opponents.
Between contributions from its PAC and individual supporters, it gave $215,000 to Sen. Mazie Hirono’s campaign last year. And in its press release, it sounds like the combination of Hanabusa’s progressive record on women’s issues and the prospect of having both Hawaii U.S. Senate seats held by women makes her a priority.
“The EMILY’s List community is ready to fight for her every step of the way so that she can take her place as a senator from HawaiI,” the release said. “Colleen is the right choice for women and families in Hawai’i, and EMILY’s List won’t stop until she shatters yet another glass ceiling by making Hawaii the fourth state to send two women to the United States Senate.”
The news was not unexpected. EMILY’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech told Civil Beat last week it was “likely” the group would be endorsing Hanabusa. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, EMILY’s List was also Hanabusa’s largest supporter in last year’s election, contributing $75,702 to her between PAC and individual donations.
In the release, Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List, said “Colleen Hanabusa is an experienced progressive champion who has spent her career serving the people of Hawai’i with passion and integrity.
“She’s a glass ceiling breaker who was the first woman in Hawai’i, and first Asian American woman in the country, to lead a state legislative chamber.”
Hanabusa, in a statement, said, “I am pleased and honored to have earned the support of EMILY’s List, an organization that has done so much to protect women’s health and safety. I look forward to working with them in reaching out to women and men across Hawaii who are ready to stand up for vital individual rights.”
The release cited her tenure in the Hawaii State Senate, where “she fought to expand birth control coverage, protected the rights of victims of sexual assault, and defended the rights of workers to organize.”
In Congress, “she has protected a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices, is an avid supporter of fostering sustainability in Hawai’i, has helped acquire more than $117 million in education funding for Hawaiian public schools, and has fought to project jobs for the people of Hawail,” the release said.
— Kery Murakami