WASHINGTON — As hundreds of Hawaii residents converge on the nation’s capital either to cheer or protest the inauguration of incoming President Donald J. Trump, the state’s two congresswomen are elsewhere.
When Civil Beat journalists made an unscheduled visit to their offices in the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings, staffers for the congresswomen reluctantly explained that the two women aren’t in Washington this week.
U. S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, has gone on a fact-finding trip to Syria and Lebanon and won’t be back until next week.
“As a member of the Armed Forces and Foreign Affairs Committees, and as an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers and community leaders,” Rep. Gabbard’s staff said in a press release.
They said they would not be releasing further details for security reasons.
U. S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who was just elected to a full term representing the 1st Congressional District following the death of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, is also absent.She’s in Honolulu and told Hawaii Public Radio in an interview Tuesday that she was suffering “vogitis,” or a respiratory reaction to volcanic haze.She was coughing. The interviewer told listeners that Hanabusa intended to return to Washington in time for the inauguration.
The absence of the two congresswomen may disappoint some of the people arriving from the nation’s farthest reaches. Many of the people attending the inauguration festivities Friday or the protest march on Saturday had hoped to talk with the congresswomen.
A steady stream of visitors, many from Hawaii, passed through the offices of Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, who are both in Washington this week. But people who arrived at the offices of the congresswomen were politely greeted by office managers and told the representatives were unavailable.
Trump’s election and the increasing ascendancy of the Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate has been a bitter disappointment to many Democrats who oppose Republican policies and plans.
Trump has compounded their disaffection by publicly feuding with revered figures inside the Democratic party. Last week, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who is famous for his participation in a civil rights march during the 1960s, denounced Trump and said he would not attend his inauguration. Trump responded with a twitter barrage of attacks on the civil rights icon, suggesting he was representing his constituents incompetently.
Since then, more than 40 members of the House have announced that they also intend to boycott the inauguration, some out of solidarity with Lewis and others because of their disgust for Trump.
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A Kailua girl, Kirstin Downey is a special correspondent for Civil Beat. A longtime reporter for The Washington Post, she is the author of "The Woman Behind the New Deal," "Isabella the Warrior Queen" and an upcoming biography of King Kaumualii of Kauai. She can be reached at email@example.com.