Freshman House Democrat Takes Seat As Underdog

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii is one of only nine new Democrats in the House. Host Scott Simon talks to the freshman representative about what she wants to accomplish on Capitol Hill and how she's going to work with her party and the Republicans.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Now we turn to another freshman member of the House of Representative, Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii. Representative Hanabusa is one of only nine new Democrats who join the House of Representatives this year.

Representative Hanabusa, thanks so much for being with us.

Representative COLLEEN HANABUSA (Democrat, Hawaii): Well, thanks for having me.

SIMON: You were, again(ph), a president to the state Senate in Hawaii, so you know politics. What do you want to do?

Rep. HANABUSA: When I grow up? No...

SIMON: I hope...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. HANABUSA: (Unintelligible) want to do...

SIMON: I hope it's this. I mean...

Rep. HANABUSA: Yeah. What I'd like to see is I'd like to have the ability to ensure that what - our economy is improving, our numbers are getting better. And I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we have had the benefit of federal funding, and Hawaii's economy is able to stabilize because of the fact that we have, well, not only military presence, but we've always had the benefit of federal funding. And that's what I want to ensure that we continue.

SIMON: Do you think Congress is an effective institution?

Rep. HANABUSA: Congress has got to be an effective institution, simply because it is the institution that's going to have to address the problems that this nation is in. There's no place else to go. Like in - when you're in a state legislature, you can always say, well, you know, the Fed's got to take care of this or Congress has got to take care of this. But when you're here, it's like there's no one else to pass the buck to. So I don't think people will ever be happy with Congress and no one's ever happy with any legislative body that they have.

SIMON: You represent Honolulu.

Rep. HANABUSA: I represent Honolulu.

SIMON: And what particular interest do you think you'd like to bring to Congress representing your district?

Rep. HANABUSA: First of all, I'd like to bring to them the ability to recognize that, one, there is a way to work together. But more importantly than that, there's also a way as to how we work. So there are different views, because we are never going to be alike and the regions that each of us represent are - to a large extent it's going to dictate how a particular elected official views specific issues, that someone who is in a swing state, for example, you know, you'd like to be able to have the ability to ensure that that person can vote a certain way if they need to vote a certain way, if they want to reflect the vote of their constituency.

SIMON: I must say, you sound more practical than ideological.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. HANABUSA: The bottom line is, our job is to get legislation passed. You can't just vote no. I saw people - the easiest thing you can do is to kill things, you just vote no or you block or dig in. But the real challenge in one's skill as a legislator is to know what's fundamentally your core. But also being able to reach out, compromise, and get to some piece of legislation that you believe you can get passed. That's where I'm practical.

Representative Colleen Hanabusa, one of nine freshmen Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Rep. HANABUSA: Thank you for having me.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.