Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run in the Aug. 11 primary for the 1st Congressional District. All five responded, including Representative Colleen Hanabusa. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read the responses by Charles Djou to see how Hanabusa’s positions compare to those of her main competitor. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Hanabusa’s response.
1. President Obama has significantly increased the use of drones to assassinate terrorist targets. The policy has been criticized for denying due process rights for at least one American living abroad, and for the collateral killing of civilians. Do you support this policy — why or why not?
This is a very complicated question and deserves a thorough answer.
To date, I have been outspoken in my disagreement with some U.S. military policies; I opposed our involvement in Libya and have called for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. I also opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq from the beginning of that conflict. I believe it is critically important, as a member of Congress, to thoroughly consider our nation’s involvement in foreign conflicts.
In deciding to enter into a conflict, Congress does not have all of the information that the President does, but we do have the power to demand answers to critical questions. The President employs military force as authorized in the context of a conflict authorized against recognized enemy combatants. Congress must examine the administration’s case very carefully before authorizing the use of force or entering into military engagements.
Our decisions on military deployment and the defense of our nation must consider the realities of armed conflict. War costs lives, both those of our own forces and of others—some civilians—in the areas in which the conflicts play out. If we could protect our nation and advance our legitimate strategic goals without the loss of a single civilian life, we would do so. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have given our military a means to respond to threats and carry out military missions without placing our forces in harms way. They allow us to pursue legitimate security goals without endangering the lives of the men and women who serve in our military. Drones have also demonstrated their value in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles.
The individual you refer to, Anwar al-Awlaki, was a senior member of al-Qaeda who had repeatedly called for jihad against the United States, and helped plan the group’s attacks. By his own words and actions, he was an enemy combatant who sought to kill Americans. He made himself a military target, and was killed in a military operation. ↩ back to top
2. Transportation and infrastructure are critical to an island state — especially the neighbor islands. How would you work to increase federal support for Hawaii’s roads, airports and harbors?
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, there are a number of transportation-related issues that have come before me that would jointly benefit the military and the state. As such, I will fully support initiatives and funding that will assist in the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Every member of Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation must be prepared to seek and support federal investment in our infrastructure needs. I will certainly work with our U.S. Senators and the Second Congressional District’s representative in Congress to ensure that the neighbor islands transportation needs are met. For example, I was part of Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation that recently obtained $17,014,671 to build an aircraft rescue and fire fighting building at the Kona International Airport at Keahole.
President Obama’s proposal to produce jobs and drive the economy through spending for infrastructure improvements could also benefit our state. I will support that initiative and seek funding for Hawaii projects. ↩ back to top
3.A divided U.S. Congress has not been able to come to agreement on how to lower the federal debt, in spite of bipartisan recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and others. What is your evaluation of those recommendations, which include hard decisions regarding entitlement programs, defense spending and taxes?
The Simpson-Bowles Commission emphasized what we already knew: the only effective approach to the federal deficit must address both spending and revenue, and that will mean establishing priorities. The commission’s general recommendations raised important questions, but specific proposals—such as the projected revenue increases that were supposed to come with tax reform—were inadequately supported.
Tax rates for the wealthiest in America are at their lowest in decades, part of the Bush-era tax cuts that contributed heavily to our current deficit. We should allow the tax rates for the richest in the nation to return to the level we saw under President Clinton. At that time, Republicans claimed that those tax rates would damage the economy; instead we saw robust economic performance and our government operated with a surplus.
On the spending side, our immediate concern must be sequestration, mandatory cuts to our domestic and military budgets. Mandatory cuts prevent us from developing effective priorities. Instead, we need to make a commitment to preserving programs that assist groups like seniors, students, and the poor, who genuinely need our help and have a right to expect stability in those programs. We also need to ensure that any reductions in military spending do not damage our ability to serve our legitimate defense, economic, and diplomatic goals. ↩ back to top
4.The major issue for most candidates is jobs and the economy. Can you identify a concrete example of how you as representative would go about stimulating growth both nationally and in Hawaii?
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and its subcommittees on Oversight and Investigation and Readiness, I have a role in supporting the military in Hawaii and around the world. I have successfully advocated for military construction projects in Hawaii that bring money into the local economy and create jobs for construction workers. I’m also a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has subcommittees on Alaska and Native American Affairs and Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. My membership on this committee allows me to apprise my fellow members on the unique environmental and cultural concerns of our State.
Our state is still dependent on the visitor industry as a primary economic driver. To support the development of new markets from which to attract visitors, in November, 2011, I sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees asking for changes in consular staffing to address delays in visa applications, saying, “The demand for U.S. visas in key emerging economies such as China and Brazil is not being met appropriately with current State Department resources.” These individuals wanting to visit the United States but needing to get visa approval have faced significant delays due to interview requirements that have led to wait times in Rio de Janeiro averaging 80 days.
Our State is uniquely dependent on air transportation to allow our residents and visitors to travel between the islands. That is why I sent letters to House and Senate leaders opposing any increases to the Aviation Passenger Security Fee or the proposal to impose a $100 per departure surcharge. These additional fees disproportionately impact those traveling between the Hawaiian Islands and who have no choice but to rely on air travel for transportation.
I was honored to serve on the House Armed Services Committee’s Panel on Business Challenges in the Defense Industry, which examined ways to open defense contracts to more small businesses. The panel held a briefing in Honolulu to hear directly from Hawaii businesses that were interested in exploring these new opportunities, and I will work with them to encourage these new economic opportunities for our state. ↩ back to top
5.Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, what would your goals be in terms of health care policy as a representative? Would you support universal health care?
I have supported and will continue to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Our goal must be to remove the barriers that deprive Americans of access to quality affordable healthcare, and provide protections that ensure that they can obtain and retain health insurance to protect themselves and their families. Access to quality, affordable healthcare should be a fundamental right.
Congress and the President considered the various options available to extend health insurance to the tens of millions of Americans who were uninsured. Among the proposals available, the Affordable Care Act was determined to be the best approach for our nation. It provides important protections, including ensuring coverage for preexisting conditions, helping small business cover the cost of employees’ insurance, and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ plans until they are able to get coverage on their own. In addition, these protections can be provided in a way that will reduce healthcare costs and bring down our deficit over time. Given that, we should all be able to stand behind the plan and provide these vital benefits to the people we serve. ↩ back to top
6.Global warming is real, and rising sea levels will certainly impact Hawaii. What steps would you take as a U.S. Representative to mitigate the effects of global warming?
My concerns in this area were among the reasons I chose to become a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and its subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. The federal government needs to use as many alternative energy options as practicably possible to minimize our carbon footprint.
Through my membership on the House Armed Services Committee I have supported initiatives to implement alternative energy production at military installations worldwide. The Department of Defense is the world’s largest consumer of oil. As President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address, the Navy and Marine Corps have set a goal of producing fifty percent of their energy needs from alternative sources by 2020. The services will lead the nation in the wide-scale deployment of alternative energy installations, establishing not only our national commitment to non-petroleum energy sources, but also demonstrating the feasibility of applying alternative strategies to varied energy demands. I will support these initiatives, in Hawaii, across the nation, and abroad. ↩ back to top
7.Longtime D.C. observers say the inability of the two major parties to work with each other has never been worse, especially in the U.S. House. Many experienced leaders are leaving office rather than continue in such a hostile climate. Is compromise necessary to governance — and if so, how would you reach out to your colleagues to craft and pass legislation?
Compromise is absolutely essential to effective governance. Even within a single party, situations often arise where there is a difference of opinion and, in a place like Congress where individuals are representing very different districts, the ability to find common ground is extremely valuable.
It is important to distinguish between differences based on principle and those based on politics. If we can preserve core values, we should be willing to negotiate on other terms to find a way to address differences.
I believe the challenge facing the current Congress has been that too often, politics have replaced principle at the center of disagreements. The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, for example, began as a Republican proposal; for reasons of politics, opposition to the mandate has grown into a political talking point for that party’s faithful.
I have worked with my Republican colleagues in the House with great success. The House Armed Services Committee, on which I serve, is well known for its bi-partisan approach; all members, from both parties, work together for the betterment of our nation. In addition, I worked with Democratic colleagues Norman Dicks of Washington and Mike Thompson of California, and Republican colleague Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania to sponsor and pass an amendment to HR 2584 that preserved funding to protect endangered species. ↩ back to top
8.How is the 2nd Congressional District different from the 1st Congressional District? Or are their issues largely the same?
A major difference between the two districts is access to needed services, such as health and government services. The First District is urban and has ready access to health care services, government offices and services, educational options, and other amenities. The residents of the Second Congressional District face the challenge of being more isolated so the availability of such services becomes a factor. ↩ back to top
9.What is the best thing the 112th Congress did, and why? What’s the worst thing, and why?
For Hawaii, the best thing the 112th Congress did was to acknowledge by action that the Pacific region is vital to America’s military and economic interests into the future. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of State Leon Panetta have been outspoken in advocating for this pivot to the Pacific, and recognizing Hawaii’s primary role as our nation’s forward home-soil position. Through its funding and support of Hawaii’s military presence, Congress has stood behind the nation’s Pacific focus, which is vital to our economy and long-term stability.
The biggest challenge facing Congress is still the partisan atmosphere that prevents action in so many of the areas in which we should be more productive. For example, the House voted over 30 times on dead-end proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act, simply because it became a political target of Republicans. We could have directed that energy toward areas like job creation, which would have actually benefitted Americans. ↩ back to top
10. What is an issue you think is important to address as a U.S. House candidate — one that perhaps has not been given sufficient attention during the campaign?
On the federal level, I believe that Congress is not paying sufficient attention to the rights of native Americans, including Native Hawaiians. Too many members of the U.S. House and Senate see these as racial issues; they are not. They are issues of respect and self-determination. The retirement of Senator Daniel Akaka places additonal responsibility on the other members of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation. Each of us needs to be prepared to take our concerns to our colleagues and reassert the importance of tha Akaka Bill and support for other native American and native Alaskan groups.
In addition, not enough attention has been paid to the ways in which current federal policy supports small business. The Affordable Care Act’s tax credit to small business to assist in providing health insurance to employees is a powerful benefit. Maintaining current tax levels for middle-class Americans will also help the vast majority of small business owners. ↩ back to top