Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The first business for the Senate when it reconvenes Sept. 6 after the summer recess will be passing a bill giving native Hawaiians the same status as mainland Indian tribes, despite opposition by Republican leaders and the Bush administration.

 On top of solid Democratic support, the bill is co-sponsored by Alaska's two Republican senators (who always back their Hawaiian colleagues) plus three other Republicans: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon. The bill appears to have the 60 senators needed to break a filibuster, putting responsibility for stopping the bill on the House or a presidential veto.

 A footnote: Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, the bill's principal co-sponsor, undermined his own cause Aug. 16 when he was described on National Public Radio as saying tribal sovereignty "could eventually go further, perhaps even leading to outright independence." Said Akaka: "That could be." The senator hastily peeled back Aug. 18 with a statement that he is "not a proponent of independence or secession of the State of Hawaii."


 Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is the early leader to become the "non-Hillary": Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's real adversary for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

 As a sitting governor, Warner has limited out-of-state travels. But he has gained admirers in Pennsylvania, California and throughout the South. With his term in Richmond ended, Warner next year can travel the entire country to tap Democrats who are less than enthusiastic about Clinton.

 A footnote: Polls show Warner leading Republican Sen. George Allen (himself a potential presidential candidate) in a 2006 Senate contest. But making such a race would take Warner out of the presidential derby, and he appears to have his eyes on the White House.


 When a House International Relations subcommittee held hearings this summer on Chinese repression of the Falun Gong, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California complained that the Bush administration was being represented not by a presidential appointee but by a low-level bureaucrat.

 Despite emphasis on democracy and human rights in his second term, President Bush's difficulty in filling key government positions extends to this area. He has been without an assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor since early August of 2004.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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