by Darren Pai
WASHINGTON, DC (KHNL) - When the votes were counted, Sen. Dan Akaka's push for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians fell short. His bill received 56 votes, four short of the 60 needed to push it ahead for more debate in the Senate.
"We've really brought national attention to Native Hawaiians as indigenous peoples who deserve justice, equality and what we're trying to do is federal recognition," Akaka said.
Sen. Dan Inouye blasted the White House for sending a letter critical of the bill to Republican senators. In a statement, Inouye said: "I did not expect the administration of President Bush would issue the sort of misleading letter it did on Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours before the cloture vote."
Akaka said legislative wrangling by Republican opponents blocked the bill.
"Really my bill was the victim of politics, rhetoric and procedural manuevering from the other side of the aisle," Akaka said.
Gov. Linda Lingle met with Republican senators this week in an effort to push the bill through and said she's disappointed with the vote.
"We spent a lot of time and effort on this because we believe it's the right and just thing to do and will continue to focus on this issue in the years ahead," Lingle said.
Andre Perez, spokesman for the advocacy group Hui Pu, said some Native Hawaiians never supported Akaka's vision for federal recognition.