U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, D-HI

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, D-HI

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN WASHINGTON The Army Times reports that U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, will be replaced as head of the Veterans Committee by his peers this week, reportedly in part because of his age.

The 60-year-old, 4-term Senator, Patty Murray, D-Washington will replace the 86-year-old Akaka, The Army Times reports.

Akaka, 86, a WWII veteran who worked in the Army Corps of Engineers after the war and paid his college education in part through the WWII GI Bill, has been a tireless advocate for veterans’ benefits and rights and has sponsored numerous bills to enhance the lives of service men and women.

The Army Times reports that Murray also has advocated for veterans’ benefits, such as “employment help, better health care for women and more money for treating war-related injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”

Akaka’s other passion in the Senate has been advocating for the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act, 10-year-old proposal, nicknamed the “Akaka Bill”, which would divide Hawaii by race and establish a native Hawaiian nation within the state.

The bill is highly controversial among native Hawaiian activists and is opposed by many conservatives. However it has been supported by nearly everyone at every level of government in Hawaii. The bill died this year. However, Akaka, Hawaii Senior Senator Daniel Inouye and other advocates of the measure look for ways to implement the bill without congressional approval.

Akaka will reportedly take over as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, which would allow him to continue his advocacy for native groups. That position is one that Inouye once held from 1987 to 1994 and again from June 2001 to December 2002.

Inouye’s web site reports that in the 100th Congress, when Senator Inouye served as Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, “the Committee held more hearings and reported more legislation to the full Senate than any other committee of the Senate.”

Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka at a hearing in Hawaii - Photo courtesy of Sen. Akaka

It adds that “Landmark legislation including the reauthorizations of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Indian Education Act, the Native American Languages Act, and the Native American Programs Act, and the enactment of the Indian Finance Act, the Indian Land Consolidation Act, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, and scores of Indian water rights and land claims settlement laws were also accomplished under the Senator’s leadership.”

Inouye, also 86, now is the Chair of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Akaka’s staff did not respond to this inquiry nor to The Army Times. The Army Times reports that neither Akaka nor his staff were happy about the change.

Inouye’s office also could not be reached for comment.

Congressman Ed Case, D-HI, shocked many Democrats in his party when he challenged Akaka in 2006 for the U.S. Senate seat, saying Akaka had been in office long enough and that it was time for a transition to the next generation, especially because both of Hawaii’s senators are in the 80s.

Case, an attorney who served in the U.S. House from 2002 to 2006, was rejected by the Democrats in the primary, many who believed Case was being disrespectful to Hawaii’s junior Senator.

Hawaii’s Democrat Congressional officials don’t retire or get defeated, rather they typically die while serving in office.

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Malia Zimmerman is the editor and co-founder of Hawaii Reporter. She has worked as a consultant and contributor to several dozen media outlets including ABC 20/20, FOX News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, UPI and the Washington Times. Malia has been listed as one of the nation’s top "Web Proficients, Virtuosi, and Masters" and "Hawaii's new media thought leader" by http://www.thewebstersdictionary.com Reach her at Malia@hawaiireporter.com