In a statement, Reid said he has asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) to tap a replacement by year’s end.
Inouye, whom Reid called a “dear friend,” died on Monday at the age of 88. The nine-term senator, who had helmed the Appropriations Committee, had been hospitalized earlier this month at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after experiencing respiratory complications.
Before he passed away, Inouye sent a letter to Abercrombie urging him to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) as his successor, a spokesman for the senator confirmed last week. The two lawmakers were close friends, and Inouye had indicated to others in the past that he would like her to succeed him in the Senate.
While Abercrombie will make the final decision, Hanabusa is widely seen as the front-runner for the post.
Last week, the chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party Dante Carpenter said a number of Democrats had already contacted him and expressed interest in Inouye’s seat.
Other possible appointees include former Rep. Ed Case (D), and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D), who lost his 2006 bid for Congress.
Inouye had served Hawaii in Congress since 1959, when he entered the House. He won election to the Senate in 1962, going on to become the second-longest serving member in Senate history.
President Obama attended a memorial service for Inouye at Washington National Cathedral and called the decorated World War II veteran an “inspiration.”
Many of Inouye’s Senate colleagues, as well as Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, will attend his funeral in Hawaii on Sunday.