This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) to the Native Hawiians bill. Native Hawaiians are descendants of indigenous Polynesian people who first settled the Hawaiian Islands. The substitute would require Hawaii voters to approve an agreement establishing a sovereign Native Hawaiian government before the federal government grants it official recognition.
Native Hawaiians are currently classified as a racial group in the eyes of the federal government rather than an entity entitled to sovereignty within the United States, such as Indian tribes (Native Americans).
Hastings contended his substitute was consistent with the wishes of Hawaiians: "In a Zogby poll from December 2009, a couple of months ago, only 34 percent of Hawaiians supported the concept of the Federal Government's imposing a new racially based subpopulation of citizens on the islands. Like their fellow Hawaiians who voted overwhelmingly for Statehood in 1959, Hawaiians today want a say in the future of their archipelago. The same poll found that 58 percent want a Statewide vote on this issue. So, Mr. Speaker, I have an amendment that will be offered which would require just such a Statewide vote, and I hope all Members will join me in adopting that amendment."
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) argued that Hawaii was ill-equipped to hold a state-wide referendum: "Mr. Speaker, the Hastings amendment would require a referendum by all the registered voters of Hawaii for approval of the Native Hawaiian governing entity's organic governing documents. The Hastings amendment is inconsistent with State law as the State of Hawaii has no mechanism for a statewide referendum, thereby forcing the State of Hawaii to change its laws to comply with the Hastings amendment. This raises the question of it being an unfunded mandate on the State. The Abercrombie substitute proposes to treat the Native Hawaiian governing entity the same as other native governments. Neither the States nor non-native citizens have the authority to approve the organic governing documents of other Native governments."
The House rejected the amendment by a vote of 163-241. 162 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted "yea." 236 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted "nay." As a result, the House did not agree to an amendment requiring Hawaii voters to approve an agreement establishing a sovereign Native Hawaiian government before the federal government grants it official recognition.