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‘Mr. Akaka . . .’ returns — again

Late Hawaii senator returned to the top of the roll call Thursday

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, seen here at a 2007 hearing, was always first in the Senate roll call.
Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, seen here at a 2007 hearing, was always first in the Senate roll call. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The late Daniel K. Akaka retired from the Senate in 2013 after a long and distinguished career representing Hawaii, including service as chairman of Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

But the senator, who died in 2018, was also perhaps best known for his position at the beginning of the Senate alphabet, with each of the Senate’s innumerable time-killing quorum calls beginning “Mr. Akaka.”

Seasoned Capitol Hill observers were caught off guard Thursday afternoon when it was not Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander whose name was called to kick off the calling of the roll, but rather it was once again Akaka, a Democrat who was the first Native Hawaiian ever to serve in the chamber.

It was not the first time since Akaka’s retirement that a clerk has inadvertently called his name. On the first day of the 113th Congress, on Jan. 4, 2013, the familiar rang out of force of habit in another routine Senate quorum call.

With Alexander retiring at the end of the current Congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., may assume the role at the top of the Senate’s roll call order next year.

It would be the first time in at least four decades that no senator’s name begins with the letter “A.” Colorado Republican Sen. William L. Armstrong finished his Senate service less than a year after Akaka’s initial appointment.

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