WASHINGTON — Hawaii Congressman Ed Case and his future colleague, Congressman-elect Kai Kahele emphasized the word “team” during their first ever joint press conference since winning the Nov. 3 general election.

Kahele will be replacing U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who gave up her seat so that she could focus on an unsuccessful run for the White House.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case held a press conference over Zoom with his future colleague Kai Kahele. They said it would be the first of many. Screenshot/2020

Case said the polarization highlighted by the national election results combined with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has devastated Hawaii’s economy shows just how important it is for the state’s federal lawmakers to stick together.

“For a small state like Hawaii, we only have four members of our delegation, just four, two senators and two representatives,” Case said. “If that delegation is not pulling on all cylinders all together our state will suffer. But if that delegation can pull together and operate together we can do the job that needs to be done for our Hawaii.”

At the top of the list is more money for coronavirus relief.

Case said he doesn’t have much optimism that President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans will cut a deal before the end of the year, which means negotiations could continue until Joe Biden is in the White House.

Any relief package, Case said, should contain more money for unemployment and direct cash payments, assistance for state and local governments, and increased aid for small businesses.

“I don’t think that we’re going to get out of COVID-19 with just one more emergency assistance package,” Case said. “I think it’s going to take more for us to get all the way through this incredible crisis.”

Congressman-elect Kai Kahele emphasized the importance of working with the rest of the federal delegation during a joint press conference with U.S. Rep. Ed Case. Screenshot/2020

Kahele, who won’t be sworn in until January, agreed with much of Case’s assessment.

As the representative of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, he said he would like to see any new relief deal include direct payments to the counties. Under the CARES Act, the state of Hawaii received $1.25 billion, $387 million of which was allocated to Honolulu and $175 million of which Gov. David Ige allocated to the counties of Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.

“I would like to make sure that we get direct money from the federal government to the other counties so that the other counties are not left at the table having to negotiate with the governor for how much they get,” Kahele said.

Case and Kahele, who are both from Hilo, covered other issues during Monday’s press conference, including their opposition to the closing of Dillingham Airfield and the need to address the decades-long waitlist for Native Hawaiian homesteads. Kahele, who is Native Hawaiian, wants to make Native Hawaiian issues a focal point of his work in Congress.

Both men said they would back Nancy Pelosi in her bid to remain speaker of the House

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