U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has been named the top Democrat on the Senate military construction and veterans affairs subcommittee.
The subcommittee is part of the all-important Senate Appropriations Committee, which determines governmental funding.
The plum position is the early fruit of Schatz’s rising power in the national Democratic party. Schatz was recently elevated to serve as one of two deputy party whips, which gives them a greater role in shaping policy and communications within the party.
The military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies subcommittee sets the funding levels for military construction, training ranges, family housing and other buildings and facilities.
The subcommittee also oversees funding for the Veterans Administration.
The U.S. military presence is a cornerstone of the state economy. Hawaii has more than 78,000 active duty and reserve personnel, and more than 120,000 veterans.
“I look forward to continuing the bipartisan tradition the Appropriations Committee has created to honor those that have served,” Schatz said in a statement. “I am committed to ensuring we make the appropriate investments in military construction, training ranges, resiliency, and the sustainment of mission-essential buildings necessary to ensure the military’s readiness while deployed, and that we have the resources to take care of them when they return.”
Congressional Democrats in both the Senate and House face formidable political opposition from Republicans, who hold the majority in both chambers, which gives them considerable power to set the nation’s policies.
All four delegates from Hawaii, senators Schatz and Mazie Hirono, and congresswomen Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard, are Democrats.
Hanabusa was recently named to the leadership group within the House of Representatives. She is part of a core governing group established by Democratic Party Leader U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. Hanabusa leads the freshman group, the Democratic Party newcomers to Congress.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.