Schatz: Congress won’t take up tribal question

LIHUE — Federal funding, Hillary Clinton for president and no headway in Congress for tribal recognition.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz spoke to The Garden Island Thursday on a number of Hawaii topics around Washington, D.C. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Schatz is heavily involved in spending decisions, and he is in position to help steer some of those funds back to the state and to the island of Kauai.

“I’m focusing very, very hard on making sure federal resources come home,” Schatz said.

That includes $30.6 million in the 2016 fiscal year for the Pacific Missile Range Facility so that it can consolidate its electric grid from several separate circuits used now, into one.

About 17 percent of the base’s operating budget is funneled toward utilities, and almost all of that is spent on electricity, according to PMRF. In addition to providing better system reliability, connecting all of the circuits into one grid will allow more use of photovoltaic energy in the future because the base will have the necessary infrastructure in place to support it.

Schatz said he is “especially pleased about the (funds) being invested in PMRF for grid stability – that’s a nice infusion of capital, and it’s also going to help Kauai reach its sustainability goal.”

The project will help ensure the base can manage its load requirements to support Ballistic Missile Defense Testing and other Navy missions. It will also allow the base to improve electricity load management for energy-intensive missions, such as the Aegis Ashore Test Facility, and potential future missions like a land-based power generation testbed for an energy magazine, such as railgun.

On tribal recognition

Schatz, a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, said efforts to gain tribal recognition for native Hawaiians are not likely to make headway in Congress, and that Hawaii’s delegation has decided the better approach is to work with the Obama administration.

“The law allows for it, we have a president that understands Hawaii and the native Hawaiians, and we’re hoping the Department of the Interior will proceed with good pace,” Schatz said.

He added he does not support the Hawaii independence movement and he believes Hawaii should remain the country’s 50th state.

On politics

Schatz is backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for president, choosing to support her over a growing field of announced rivals, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

“I just believe she is the strongest and most capable and well-prepared standard bearer that either party has seen in a very long time,” Schatz said. “The world is a complicated and dangerous place, and we need leadership.”


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