This was a vote on a substitute offered by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to legislation to establish a process by which the federal government would recognize a sovereign Native Hawaiian government. . Native Hawaiians are descendants of indigenous Polynesian people who first settled the Hawaiian Islands. They 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).
The substitute, while generally similar to the underlying bill, would make a number of changes to the bill. The amendment provides that, until the legislation takes effect, the Native Hawaiian governing entity could not exercise jurisdiction over Native Hawaiians without their consent. In addition, the state of Hawaii would retain regulatory and taxation authority over Native Hawaiians and the Native Hawaiian governing entity until the legislation takes effect. The substitute also provides that a U.S. attorney would assist the new Native Hawaiian government in confronting legal challenges.
Abercrombie argued his substitute was in keeping with established federal law: "Mr. Speaker, in support of our substitute amendment, the amendment ensures that the Native Hawaiian governing entity will have the same governmental authorities and sovereign immunity of other native governments. The Abercrombie amendment, the substitute amendment, follows centuries of well-established Federal law. The amendment is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives and other tribal organizations. President Obama supports the substitute amendment, and I quote, ``as it adds important clarifications to craft a durable pathway forward.'' Mr. Speaker, the amendment in the nature of a substitute further clarifies that pending negotiations and subsequent implementation legislation with that, the following will occur: There will be no Indian Country within Hawaii. The United States will not take land into trust nor restrict alien ability of land owned by the Native Hawaiian governing entity. The governing entity may not exercise certain powers and authorities such as jurisdiction over non-Native Hawaiian individuals without their consent. And the State of Hawaii will retain regulatory and taxation authority over Native Hawaiians and the Native Hawaiian governing entity."
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) contended the substitute would preempt Hawaii state law: "…This substitute short circuits that public process. It immediately preempts the State of Hawaii's jurisdiction over civil, tax, and possibly criminal matters. All the Native Hawaiian entity would have to do is undertake any activity in the name of an official government action and immunity from the State authority applies. The substitute makes a number of major revisions, all written in secret, away from public view…. Mr. Speaker, I just want to emphasize this point. It is not reasonable to roll over the sovereign rights of a State. And it is especially not reasonable when the Governor of that State, in this case Governor Lingle--who has long been a proponent of the principles embodied in this issue--disagrees and cannot support the amendment in the nature of a substitute that we are discussing here tonight. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I urge and ask my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this substitute."
The House agreed to the substitute by a vote of 245-164. 239 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted "yea." 160 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House agreed to a substitute to make a number of changes and clarifications to the underlying bill, including a provision requiring that that a U.S. attorney assist the new Native Hawaiian government in confronting legal challenges.