January 13, 2014

Report Cards for Hawaii's D.C. Delegates: How'd They Do?

Mazie Hirono only missed one vote in 2013, Colleen Hanabusa reached across the aisle a lot to co-sponsor legislation and Tulsi Gabbard and Brian Schatz each had a bill enacted. All four also worked with each other to push legislation jointly.

Those are some of the highlights from the 2013 Report Cards for All Members of Congress, released last week by GovTrack.us, a government transparency website.

The report cards are a summary of each senator and representative's legislative activity during the 2013 session of Congress. The metrics include the number of bills introduced and enacted, the number of bills co-sponsored and having bipartisan support, ideology, leadership positions and missed votes.

GovTrack also identified 20 nonpartisan bills that increase government transparency and tracked who supported them — and who did not. In this regard, Hawaii's delegates faired poorly.

The report does not mention that the first session of the 113th Congress was one of the least productive and most partisan in U.S. history — something that made it very difficult for anybody from either party to get much done. Democrats control the Senate while Republicans control the House.

Sen. Mazie Hirono

Hirono was elected to the Senate in 2012, making her a freshman in a club that includes well-known figures like Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). She is Hawaii's junior senator, because Schatz was appointed to Dan Inouye's seat and sworn in just a few days before Hirono.

Hirono's report card shows she ranked first for Senate freshmen that work with the House. Five of her bills and resolutions had a companion bill; GovTrack said "working with a sponsor in the other chamber makes a bill more likely to be passed by both the House and Senate."

Hirono — deemed "progressive" in terms of ideology — also scored well (second highest) in writing bipartisan bills; 60 percent of her 15 bills and resolutions had both a Democratic cosponsor and a Republican co-sponsor in 2013. "In this era of partisanship, it is encouraging to see Members of Congress working across the aisle," remarked GovTrack.

That said, Hirono also ranked second lowest in joining bipartisan bills; of the 141 bills she co-sponsored, just 15 percent were introduced by someone other than a Democrat. They include the Filipino Veterans Promise Act sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-N.V.) and the National Women’s History Museum Commission Act sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.).

Those 15 bills and resolutions rank Hirono second highest for bills introduced by freshmen. The measures include a bill to re-designate the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies as the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies; it passed the Senate unanimously last month and now awaits a House vote.

Hirono had no laws enacted, however; GovTrack explained that "very few bills ever become law." Thirteen of Hirono's 2013 bills remain in the committees they were referred to, as is the case with most bills and resolutions.

One of Hirono's measures seeks to help Vichai Sae Tung, also known as Chai Chaowasaree. Chaowasaree is better known to Hawaii folks as Chef Chai; Hirono's bill, co sponsored by Schatz, would grant Chaowasaree permanent residence status in this country. GovTrack predicts the measure has only a 2 percent chance of becoming law.

It's only her first year in the Senate, and so it's not surprising that Hirono holds no leadership positions on committees or subcommittees. Nor did she attract a powerful co-sponsor for her bills, like a chair or ranking member of a committee that a bill was referred to. "Getting support from committee leaders on relevant committees is a crucial step in moving legislation forward," said GovTrack.

Hirono also ranked in the middle of the pack with her colleagues in terms of supporting eight government transparency bills; she is a co-sponsor of one of the Senate measures, the FISA Court Reform Act.

Read the entire piece here: http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2014/01/13/20876-report-cards-for-hawaiis-dc-delegates-howd-they-do/

By:  Chad Blair
Source: Honolulu Civil Beat