Congresswoman Mazie Hirono is a loyal member of the Democratic Party. But her primary loyalties are to the constituents she serves and the values she espouses. Her record shows she's willing to cross party lines or oppose her party leadership when necessary to help her constituents and adhere to her principles.
Just a few notable examples -
When Hirono was a freshman in Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (known as ENDA) passed out of committee and was on the House floor for a vote. The legislation was intended to outlaw anti-gay workplace discrimination. Hirono had earlier joined Reps. George Miller and Dennis Kucinich in writing to the subject-matter committee to ask that gender-identity discrimination be covered by ENDA. The committee didn't take the requested action. So, Rep. Tammy Baldwin proposed a floor amendment to accomplish the same purpose. Against the apparent wishes of party leadership and her friend Barney Frank (who chaired the committee that passed ENDA), Hirono took to the floor to speak in favor of Baldwin's amendment:
As an original cosponsor of the original ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), I am glad to be able to have this opportunity to debate the Baldwin amendment to include anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals. I stand with Congresswoman Baldwin in her courageous fight to provide for the inclusion of a group that is probably the most in need of workplace protections. I look forward to continuing to work with her and our likeminded colleagues in any effort to . . . provide employment protections for gender identity through future educational and legislative initiatives.Native Education
There are many conservatives in Congress who oppose any support for racial minorities, including native peoples. Many Republicans also oppose any federal support for education. Thus, it wasn't shocking that GOP budget drafters proposed the elimination of all funding for Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native education programs. Reportedly, the National Education Association (often a Democratic ally) also supported the defunding. With both the House majority and the NEA on the same side of the issue, Hirono and GOP Rep. Don Young of Alaska faced an uphill battle in trying to get the funding back in the budget. Yet, they got it done, by a 313-117 vote!
Hirono tells the story:
Working across the aisle, Representative Young and I were able to join forces to counteract those who strongly oppose any programs benefiting Native Hawaiians or Alaska Natives. We lobbied our members hard, and I was thrilled with the decisive vote. Although we differ in many of our political views, we share a commitment to fairness for the indigenous, aboriginal people of what is now the United States.Incidentally, the local NEA affiliate has endorsed Hirono.
Vital programs that serve our communities have been cut by the Republican Majority. Democrat after Democrat has spoken for over thirty-four hours over the past three days on how these cuts impact our districts. To be able to work collaboratively, even in the toxic Washington environment, speaks to the importance of Native Hawaiian education programs.
Joining Republican Rep. Ron Paul and others concerned about civil liberties and due process, Hirono cosponsored and voted for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this month to deny the President the ability to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely:
Challenging the Administration's slow-withdrawal stand, Hirono voted for Rep. Barbara Lee's NDAA amendment earlier this month to accelerate the redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan:
Principled independence is obviously a good thing. Why is it even an issue? Hirono's opponent in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Ed Case, has bizarrely questioned her independence simply because she's a progressive. Meanwhile, Case (a former Member of Congress) has apparently not been supported by anyone with whom he's ever served, whereas Hirono is supported by numerous colleagues throughout the Democratic caucus, including Frank, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. John Lewis, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. That she's been able vote independently and still maintain such strong support from those within her party says (to me, at least) that they respect her principled stands. In contrast, Case shows his version of independence by going out of his way to praise President George W. Bush and perhaps even providing formal advice to Republican candidates:
For many observers, it's hard to identify laudable principles or goals advanced by those actions. It's a strange record for someone seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate in President Obama's strongest state. Hawai`i Democrats will have a chance to voice their opinion of the race at this weekend's state party convention.
Aloha and mahalo.