Rockefeller defends Inouye from ‘cowardly’ colleague's criticism

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), one of the Senate’s most senior Democrats, on Friday pushed back against colleagues who think Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) should step down as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. 

Rockefeller responded angrily to colleagues who have suggested that Inouye, who is 88 years old and hospitalized, should turn over the Appropriations gavel. 

“It is just cowardly that a colleague would make such outrageous suggestions about Senator Inouye’s tenure, and yet refuse to give their name as the source. It is truly a new low around here and deeply disappointing,” Rockefeller said in a statement. 

Rockefeller’s defense of Inouye was made in response to a story published by The Hill on Friday.

A Democratic senator, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about Inouye, told The Hill that the Appropriations Committee had slipped in power and independence in recent years.

“I love Inouye. He’s just been sort of not there in terms of running the committee,” said the lawmaker. “We get shunted to the side, we don’t get our bills out, we’re not forceful about it. I guess that argues for term limits. Sometimes people stay just too long,” the senator added.

Another senior Democratic senator agreed the criticism “has some truth to it.”

Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a senior member of the Finance panel, praised Inouye’s accomplishments.

“He is a highly effective chairman, respected by everyone on both sides of the aisle,” said Rockefeller. “He fought back against proposed cuts in the Ryan budget, and in a very a partisan environment, enacted all twelve of his bills for the 2012 Fiscal Year. 

“Just this week, he turned over a disaster relief request from the President into a finished bill to help so many states and families impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” he added. “These are no small feats.”