Inouye’s Take On Obama, Earmarks
Wednesday - January 13, 2010
Dan Inouye has been coming home for Christmas since 1959. In that year’s special statehood election, Inouye went to Washington as Hawaii’s first voting member of the United States House of Representatives. Three years later, he won the Senate seat he holds today.
During his tenure in Washington, Inouye has watched 11 presidents come and go, and Inouye’s return to Hawaii for the 2009 Christmas recess was overshadowed by the arrival of the most recent president with whom he’s served, another Island-born politician named Barack Obama.
Indeed, the Senate vote on Obama’s healthcare initiative kept Inouye in the cold, snowy Capital City until Christmas Eve. Inouye didn’t seem to mind the inconvenience. Despite his support for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries of 2008, Inouye approves of Obama’s performance to date.
“Obama’s done more than I expected of him,” Inouye told a group of print journalists who met with him during the Christmas break. “He is not afraid to handle promises that many politicians would have considered ill-advised. He wants to keep every promise he makes. So he tackled healthcare in the first year of his administration
“The bill isn’t going to be perfect. When the Social Security bill was first passed, it wasn’t perfect either. But we’ve improved it over the years.
“Those who prefer to have the healthcare status quo are simply not being responsible. How can we continue to support a system that pays bonuses to insurance executives while premiums are going up so dramatically?”
Throughout the Senate debate on healthcare, Majority Leader Harry Reid had to negotiate with various Democrats to maintain the 60 votes needed to forestall a Republican filibuster of the bill.
Forty-seven years ago, in his maiden Senate speech, Inouye defended the filibuster, i.e., the right of a minority of senators to talk a bill to death. He still does, despite the threat it poses to the Democrats’plans for healthcare, bank regulation or more stimulus money for the nation’s economy. “The filibuster is needed by small states with minorities,” said Inouye.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Inouye defended the much-reviled earmarking of projects by various senators.
“All the brains in Washington do not reside in the administration,” said Inouye. “For example, every-one’s now praising the Predator missiles. The Senate has always supported them - we earmarked them while the Defense Department was saying ‘no.’
“And remember that, constitutionally, the Congress has the lead role in regard to appropriating money.”
Inouye proudly spoke of some of his earmarks - for the East-West Center, for telecommunications development in Hawaii and for telescopes on the Neighbor Islands.
After a recent visit to Afghanistan, Inouye expressed his support for Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops to fight a counterinsurgency war. But Inouye admitted concerns about the cost. “We can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan forever,” he said. “I’m against the war, but once our men are there we have to supply and protect them.”
And heal them when they come home. Medal of Honor winner Inouye lost his right arm in Italy during World War II and spent months in a Michigan veterans hospital recuperating.
“In the 442nd, we didn’t have a single double-amputee survivor,” he remembers. “We had no survivors with brain injuries. They died.
“Now survivors of those injuries are commonplace. But I wonder about their rehabilitation. With such serious wounds, I think they may need a longer rehab before they step out to face the world. Rehabilitation is more than learning how to run on a prosthetic device.” Inouye hasn’t worn a prosthetic device since early in his political career.
This year he is running for his ninth term in the U.S. Senate.
(In the interest of full disclosure, my son, Peter Boylan, serves as press secretary to Sen. Inouye.)
E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS Comments (0) |
Most Recent Comment(s):