Bi­den swears in Schatz as new se­na­tor for Hawaii

Choice of lieu­tenant gov­er­nor is counter to Inouye’s last wish.

Austin American-Statesman - - NEWS - By Charles Babington SU­SAN WALSH / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Brian Schatz sym­bol­ized a gen­er­a­tional change in Hawaii’s Se­nate del­e­ga­tion, tak­ing the hand of his new col­league, 88-year-old Sen. Daniel Akaka, mo­ments be­fore be­ing sworn in Thurs­day as the suc­ces­sor to the late Demo­cratic Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den ad­min­is­tered the oath of of­fice in a cham­ber peo­pled by a dozen Demo­cratic sen­a­tors and a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans.

As he walked up the cen­ter aisle to meet Bi­den, Schatz, 40, took Akaka’s hand and helped the frail Demo­cratic se­na­tor, who is re­tir­ing, stay at his side.

Schatz had flown to Washington hours ear­lier on Air Force One with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Demo­cratic Gov. Neil Aber­crom­bie named Schatz, who had been lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, to suc­ceed Inouye. Inouye died last week of res­pi­ra­tory com­pli­ca­tions at the age of 88.

The se­lec­tion went against the dy­ing wishes of Inouye, who is revered in Hawaii pol­i­tics. He had wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to suc­ceed him.

Schatz is a former state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and one­time chair­man of the state Demo­cratic Party who ran Obama’s 2008 cam­paign in Hawaii.

He said his top pri­or­i­ties in the Se­nate would be ad­dress­ing global cli­mate change, pre­serv­ing fed­eral funds used in Hawaii for things like de­fense spend­ing and trans­porta­tion and get­ting fed­eral recog­ni­tion for Na­tive Hawai­ians to form their own government, sim­i­lar to many In­dian tribes.

Schatz told re­porters in Washington that he slept for most of the long flight, but he also spoke briefly with Obama.

“We’re anx­ious to get to work” to try to avert the fis­cal cliff, Schatz said, re­fer­ring to a package of large tax hikes and spend­ing cuts that will take ef­fect in the new year un­less Congress in­ter­venes.

Schatz said it was “dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why we’ve in­flicted this on our­selves.” He said the only thing worse than some of the tax hikes and spend­ing cuts pro­posed to avert the cliff “is not fix­ing it.”

Schatz beat out Hanabusa and Es­ther Ki­aaina, a deputy di­rec­tor in the state Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­part­ment. The three can­di­dates were se­lected by state Democrats Wed­nes­day morn­ing from a field of 14. The can­di­dates briefly made their cases be­fore the state party’s cen­tral com­mit­tee.

Inouye was by far Hawaii’s most in­flu­en­tial politi­cian and one of the most re­spected law­mak­ers in Washington af­ter serv­ing five decades in the Se­nate. He sent Aber­crom­bie a hand­signed let­ter dated the day he died, say­ing he would like Hanabusa to suc­ceed him.

Four days af­ter eu­lo­giz­ing Inouye in the court­yard of the Hawaii Capi­tol, Aber­crom­bie said he had to con­sider more than just Inouye’s wishes in fill­ing his seat.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den (right) reen­acts the swear­ing-in of Sen. Brian Emanuel Schatz, D-Hawaii, as Schatz’s wife, Linda, holds the Jewish Bi­ble and watches in the Old Se­nate Cham­ber on Capi­tol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thurs­day.

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