This was a vote on a resolution outlining the terms for debate on a bill establishing 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. The bill would essentially grant Native Hawaiians the same legal status as Indian tribes.
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).
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) contended the legislation was consistent with U.S. policy with respect to indigenous peoples: "As we have seen in Colorado, with the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute and across the country, the U.S. has a longstanding policy of providing its indigenous people--those who exercised sovereignty until the United States expanded its borders into their homeland--with an opportunity to organize, to protect and to perpetuate their cultures and traditions and to look out for their interests. It is only right that all indigenous people should have a right to determine how they should interact with our government. This bill merely brings about parity in the U.S. treatment of its indigenous people--American Indians, Alaska natives and Native Hawaiians. H.R. 2314 would establish a Native Hawaiian interim governing council to develop elements of the organic governing documents and other criteria for the Native Hawaiian governing entity. These documents would detail the powers and authorities of the governing entity, but they would also include membership criteria as well as requirements for the election of government officials."
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart criticized the Democratic majority for considering Native Hawaiians legislation at a time when unemployment remains high: "Why do I mention the stimulus and the state of our economy? To point out that, while our economy continues to stumble and to stutter and as jobless claims rise, the majority has decided to pass legislation that would recognize Native Hawaiians as a sovereign governing entity. Now, just 2 months ago, the distinguished Speaker declared that her party should be judged on the issue of 'jobs, jobs, jobs.' How does the bill before us today have anything to do with job creation? I understand that this is the last week in Congress for my good friend, one of the most respected Members of this House, Representative Abercrombie. I know I join all Members of the House in thanking him for his great work as a Member of this House and also for his friendship. As I say, I have great respect for him….Yet there is an undeniable issue here that I have made reference to that was pointed out in terms of its importance to the American people by a recent opinion research poll which found that 84 percent of Americans think that Congress has not done enough for the creation of jobs. I think what the majority is doing today will simply reinforce that belief by the American people."
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 238-165. 235 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted "yea." 162 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to floor debate on legislation to establish a process by which the federal government would recognize a sovereign Native Hawaiian government.