Aware that he may need every vote possible to advance legislation in the days after Christmas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling on Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint a successor to fill Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's seat in time to vote this year.
Aloha State Democrats appear prepared to cooperate with the request. The state central committee will meet at 8 a.m. on the day after Christmas to select three names from which Abercrombie, a fellow Democrat, will make his selection, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Saturday. The meeting had originally been scheduled for the end of the week, after the Senate plans to reconvene.
"With the passing of my dear friend Senator Daniel Inouye, I have asked the governor of Hawaii to appoint Senator Inouye's successor with due haste," Reid said Saturday in a statement. "It is critically important to ensure that the people of Hawaii are fully represented in the pivotal decisions the Senate will be making before the end of the year."
The Nevada Democrat's statement came just one day after a moving memorial service for Inouye at the National Cathedral in Washington and the day before a formal service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
Senators departed Friday evening for a brief Christmas break, with the chamber set to return for legislative business on Dec. 27. Senate Democrats say the first vote is expected at 5:30 p.m. that day, either in relation to a pending emergency supplemental spending bill for aid to areas hit by Superstorm Sandy or an extension of federal surveillance authorities.
Of course, neither of those measures are the big ticket item that will really force lawmakers back to Capitol Hill for the extraordinary session. Congress still needs to reach an agreement with President Barack Obama on legislation to prevent year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.
Hawaii's election law requires that the governor make an appointment from among three names submitted by the state party, ensuring that Reid will have an additional member of his caucus, which was down to 52 members following the Monday death of Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat and Senate president pro tempore.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, is among the individuals applying for the appointment with the state party. Inouye endorsed her selection in a letter to Abercrombie just before his death, making her a clear favorite.