Rep. Mazie Hirono is seeking to move up in the political sphere and leave her place in the House of Representatives to take Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in the Senate. Ka Leo sat down with the congresswoman to get her take on some of the major issues and how she intends to address them.
Most people know that you’re a vocal supporter of the Obama administration. What do you feel are the highlights of his presidency?
I think Obamacare, which has provided healthcare for millions in this country, is a highlight of his presidency. A lot of people had to work together to make this happen, and it’s important to remember how close that vote was. No Republican representatives in the House voted in favor of the act, and if the balance was shifted, it very well might not have passed.
What issues are you hoping to bring to the forefront in Washington D.C.?
We need to focus on bringing back jobs from the 2008 crash. The president did a great job introducing his jobs package, which I fully support. I also plan on introducing a bi-partisan bill to help increase tourism in Hawai‘i, known as the Visit USA bill. The purpose of this bill is to increase our visas from one year to five years so that we can encourage international tourism, especially in China, where there are over 54 million travelers every year but less than one million coming to Hawai‘i.
Along with the economy, the issue with our national budget is also something that voters have been focusing on. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan released a budget that confronts the growing debt, but critics claim it will hurt the middle and lower class. How does your plan with the budget differ, yet still confront the fiscal cliff that we’re reaching?
The Ryan budget focuses just on cutting and nothing else. We need to be focusing on a balanced approach by achieving savings on outlays. We spend approximately $2 billion a week on the war in Afghanistan. When we start scaling back those operations, we can start saving that money and refocusing it. We need to look at other things as well, like fraudulent waste in Medicare, tax breaks given to oil companies and companies that are shipping jobs overseas.
Recently, the Democrats have declared that the GOP has a “War on Women.” Do you agree with this assessment?
Yes, there is. Look at the dozens of anti-choice, defunding Planned Parenthood voting done on the floor. You can look at things like the Blunt Amendment, which allows any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service by citing “moral reasons.”
Going into this election, what is the difference between you and Linda Lingle?
We have different values and priorities. I support Obamacare, which has helped millions in this country, while Linda Lingle would look to repeal the program. It’s things like our reliance on fossil fuels and tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires that she supports, which is taking our country in the wrong direction. While she may claim to be a bi-partisan leader, on issues that matter she [sides] with Republicans.