Representative, Hawaii House of Representatives, 1981–1994; Lt. Governor of Hawaii, 1994–2002; Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives, 2007–2013; U.S. Senator, U.S. Senate, 2013–present
I have the experience and record of accomplishment to best serve the people of Hawaii as their United States Senator. I believe that my role is to provide a voice for those who don’t often get a say in the policies that govern our nation. During my first term in the Senate, I have worked to ensure that that voice is loud and clear, so that it can benefit those who need it most.
I put Hawaii’s needs first, and I have worked to build relationships in my own party and across the aisle that are critical to ensuring our state’s priorities are addressed. This has allowed me to promote projects and programs, direct funding, and support opportunities at the federal level that benefit our state. I tell my staff that Hawaii is the tail that wags the dog – meaning the work we do in DC needs to be driven by the impact it will have in Hawaii. They know that if we can improve the life of individuals, one by one, multiplied many times over, we will be doing our job.
I have included three issues that I believe are important in the context of the Trump administration. Outside of these three issues, I am always focused on promoting quality education for all; ensuring our kupuna are properly cared for; building a strong, sustainable economy anchored by the middle class and unions; and supporting our military and veterans.
I believe that access to quality, affordable health care is one of our nation’s top issues, and we must remain vigilant when it comes to preserving the progress we’ve made. While Hawaii has benefitted from our state’s Prepaid Health Care Act for years now, for me, a top priority in the U.S. Senate is to continue to defend the progress that’s been made at the federal level and to fight back against attempts to reduce care or make it more expensive. At the same time, we must continue looking for ways to make care better and more accessible for all. Health care impacts every single one of us, and the fact that some people still do not have access to even basic, affordable care in our country is a disgrace. I was fortunate to have health insurance when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year, and that experience has highlighted once again what a critical situation we’re in. Even as our country faces other issues, especially with this changeable president at the helm, the Trump administration’s avowed goal is to repeal and weaken the Affordable Care Act. Just recently the President proudly proclaimed that he has “essentially gutted” the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans have introduced a budget that lays the groundwork for once again attempting to repeal the ACA. When it comes to health care, we are always at risk of losing the progress we’ve made.
Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have spent the past 18 months demonizing immigrants, pursuing an agenda of division, and pushing for policies that undermine the fact that, with the exception of our indigenous communities, our nation is a nation of immigrants. In Hawaii nearly one in five residents is an immigrant. We also know that diversity is a strength, not a weakness. So it’s easy to understand why immigration reform would be a top issue federally and for our state. As the only immigrant currently serving in the Senate, I have a unique perspective to bring to to any discussion about our nation’s immigration laws and to fight back against this historically dangerous President. It is unconscionable that the President and his administration deep-sixed the DACA bill that had the best chance at passage after he created the DACA crisis in the first place. If re-elected, I will continue to be a voice for comprehensive immigration reform that uses family unity as a guiding principle; and against dehumanizing rhetoric.
Finally, I will continue to focus on promoting a progressive national security strategy that emphasizes diplomatic solutions over military adventurism. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I understand how important it is to maintain and support our military. I also understand how important it is to maintain strong relations with our allies and focus on diplomacy as a way to resolve conflict. Defense Secretary Mattis, who has decades of experience with war and conflict, wisely said that diplomacy backed by “strong and prepared armed forces” is the best way to prevent war. As with so many other policy areas, this administration has a chaotic approach to foreign policy, oftentimes angering our allies and increasingly isolating ourselves at a time when we should be presenting a united front to face the challenges presented by North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, and others. Diplomacy is hard and takes time, and this administration’s focus on photo-ops, bellicose rhetoric, and shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy risks unnecessary and dangerous U.S. military actions on these matters. Congress needs to be a check on the President’s reckless behavior. I will continue to push for stronger relationships with our allies, and support peaceful, diplomatic solutions to the global challenges we face.
My first priority, if re-elected, would be to continue to fight for the things that are important to the people of Hawaii – such as health care that’s affordable and accessible; protecting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid; tax reform that helps all middle class and working people – not the richest 1% of people and corporations in our country; and ensuring that unions can continue to fight for good wages and working conditions.
Health care access in particular impacts every single American, and my recent health experience is just one example of the kinds of serious health issues that can arise unexpectedly. There are people in our state and across the country who still do not have access to affordable, quality health care. That is unacceptable. And if Texas prevails in its lawsuit challenging basic provisions of the ACA, including, regrettably, protecting those with pre-existing conditions, millions of people will be deeply negatively impacted. We are all living just one diagnosis away from a major illness, and no one should need to worry about whether they can afford the care that might end up saving their life.
Improving the lives of the people of Hawaii is the driving force behind the initiatives my office pursues. Whether it be advocating for grant funding, securing our priorities in the yearly National Defense Authorization Act, expanding programs that make education more affordable, helping our veterans, or working to increase tourism revenue to our state, ensuring that there is a tangible benefit to my constituents is my top consideration.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen the Trump administration make our place in the world less secure, increasingly try to destroy the programs and services that people in our state depend on, and put the wealthy and corporations above middle class families. These actions should have consequences, and I believe that in order to completely serve my constituents, I need to draw attention to and fight back against their destructive behavior and misplaced priorities.
These are not normal times. This administration regularly disregards the rule of law, and has done little to instill confidence in Congress or the people of our country that they are willing to be faithful partners in governing our nation. Throughout this tumultuous time, however, Members of Congress still have opportunities to address the issues that matter for our communities.
I will continue working with my colleagues – Democrat and Republican – to ensure we are making progress for our constituents and for people across the country. I will continue to make a good faith effort to find Republican co-sponsors for the bills I introduce. Recently, in the wake of Kilauea's ongoing activity, I worked with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to pass legislation to strengthen volcano monitoring and early warning systems. Over the past year, I have worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to provide VA support for adult day care services for elderly veterans, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) to expand telehealth options for veterans, especially those in rural communities in our state. I even found some common ground with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), my counterpart on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, when we came together to ask the Supreme Court to release an audio recording of oral arguments immediately after they concluded in Trump v. Hawaii rather than being subject to the usual delay.
These relationships with my colleagues have allowed me to continue to move the ball forward on issues that matter to the people of our state. If re-elected, I will continue to fight for those priorities.