Hawaii Democrat avoids Capitol Hill while continuing to work as an airline pilot

In an odd story, Fox News reported this week that Hawaii’s Democratic congressman has spent most of his time out of Washington while continuing to work as a pilot. 

The network cited a piece from the Honolulu Civil Beat as stating that Rep. Kai Kahele has cast only five in-person votes this year.

Kahele blames absence on fear of COVID

His other 120 votes were cast by proxy, a practice that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has permitted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kahele’s office provided a statement to Fox News that pointed to concerns over COVID as justification for his absence.

“The Congressman is concerned for the health and safety of the communities with whom he interacts,” the statement was quoted as saying. 

It went on to say that Kahele “is also deeply concerned about the health and safety of members of his own family because he lives in a multi-generational home.” 

“Unfortunately, variants of COVID-19 continue to spread. Just last week members of leadership in the U.S. House and White House contracted the virus,” it continued. 

“To limit his exposure to COVID-19 and the potential to spread the virus, our office has tried to reduce Rep. Kahele’s cross-country travel while ensuring he fulfills all of his responsibilities in Congress,” the statement insisted, adding that Kahele has “not missed a single vote this year.” 

The congressman is still working as an airline pilot

Curiously, concerns over COVID have not prevented Kahele from continuing to work as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, a decision the statement went on to defend.

“The Congressman’s outside employment is in accordance with rules set by the U.S. House Committee on Ethics,” the statement said, stressing, “In 2022, Congressman Kahele has flown three flights for a total of 14.2 flying hours and has earned $2,861.90. In 2021, the Congressman’s outside earned income totaled $29,151.79.”

Far from being a liability, the statement portrayed Kahele’s outside employment as being an asset since it allows him to bring ” a unique perspective” to his position on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Fox News noted that Kahele was elected in 2020 following the resignation of his predecessor, former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. 

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