Sen. Daniel Inouye

Senator Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s senior Senator and an American war hero, died today at the age of 88. He suffered complications from a respiratory problem and was in the hospital for the past few days.

Inouye was the President pro tempore of the Senate – fourth in line for the Presidency. He served as a Senator since 1962 and represented Hawaii as a legislator since 1954, since before it was a state. He is a giant in Hawaii politics and one of the longest-serving members of the Senate in history.

Inouye also chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. With his absence, the chair probably falls to Barbara Mikulski, though Patrick Leahy or Tom Harkin could take it, which would set up a real scramble.

Just to get the crass politics out of the way, Hawaii is one of three states where the Governor makes a temporary appointment of a new Senator based off of a list of three people submitted by Inouye’s party, the Democrats. The special election to replace the last two years of Inouye’s term wouldn’t take place until November 2014. There’s some trepidation that Governor Neil Abercrombie would select Blue Dog Ed Case to replace Inouye. There’s almost no chance of that happening. The Hawaii Democratic Party doesn’t like Case for constantly challenging the candidates they’ve supported in recent Congressional elections. My money would be on Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Now, to celebrate the life of Daniel Inouye. A Nisei Japanese-American, Inouye was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor and then served in the US Army in 1943. He was gravely wounded twice and lost his arm at one point, yet remained in the military until 1947 and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He ended up going to Congress, chairing the Intelligence Committee, Indian Affairs Committee and Appropriations Committee at various points in his career. He was instrumental in special committees investigating Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair. He was a fixture in politics for over 50 years.

Rest in peace.