WASHINGTON — Democrat-friendly Hawaii is one of the bluest states in the union, and one of six states represented by a single party in Congress.
Like Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island are represented only by Democrats. Wyoming, Idaho and Kansas are represented by only Republicans.
Between January and August of this year, Hawaii’s four congressional delegates had hundreds of opportunities to vote on matters that affect Hawaii and the rest of the country. We looked at every measure — 691 votes in the House and 123 in the Senate — to get a better sense of what one-party dominance means for Hawaii. (Read a related coverage about how Hawaii delegates’ voting records differed in the House and in the Senate.)
Some of the things we learned about the delegation from the combined 1,628 times they were asked to cast a roll call vote since January:
Out of 814 possible votes, there were 103 times — including the instances in which a representative or senator abstained from voting — that Hawaii delegates did not make the same decision.
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa crosses the aisle to vote with the Republican majority instead of the Democratic majority more often than her colleagues, but she votes with Democrats 95 percent of the time.
Hirono abstained from voting 23 times; Sen. Daniel Inouye abstained from voting nine times; Hanabusa abstained from voting six times; Sen. Daniel Akaka abstained from voting six times.
The Senate took far fewer roll call votes. By percentage, Inouye opted out of 7 percent of votes; Akaka opted out of 5 percent of votes; Hirono opted out of 3 percent of votes; Hanabusa opted out of 1 percent of votes.
Split on Controversial Issues
Hawaii’s delegation disagrees on patent reform and decisions related to the military. It makes sense to see Hawaii’s representatives split on issues that are also controversial among members of Congress as a whole.
For example, Hanabusa voted in support of a slew of measures related to defense appropriations, which Hirono voted against. Hanabusa voted against the U.S. military’s role in Libya, but Hirono backed President Barack Obama’s decision to involve the U.S.
Akaka voted against extending controversial provisions in the Patriot Act, while Inouye voted to extend them.
More votes related to overhauling the U.S. patent system will occur when the congressional recess ends next month.
Crossing the Aisle
Hanabusa crosses the aisle to vote with a Republican majority instead of a Democratic majority more often than Hirono. The House clerk breaks down votes by party, so Civil Beat was able to examine each vote and determine that Hanabusa votes with a Democratic majority 95 percent of the time. Hirono votes with a Democratic majority 98 percent of the time. Those percentages represent the congresswomen’s “party unity” scores.
The way that the Senate records votes does not include a breakdown by party, but The Washington Post gave both Inouye and Akaka party unity scores of 97 percent.
It’s important to point out that the newspaper differed from Civil Beat in the “party unity” scores it found for Hanabusa and Hirono, giving them each 94 percent. It may have treated abstention differently — Civil Beat devised the percentages out of the total possible 691 roll call votes — or looked at a shorter time period.
More often than her colleagues, Hirono votes against the majorities of both parties. There were more than two dozen times that the majorities of both parties voted one way, and Hirono voted the other.
In contrast, for Hanabusa, there were four occasions when the majorities of both parties voted one way and she voted the other.
An example of a time when both Hanabusa and Hirono voted against the majorities of both parties was on passage of a continuing appropriations bill. Both of Hawaii’s congresswomen voted against the measure — along with 83 other Democrats and six Republicans — but it passed 335 – 91.
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