After barely setting foot in the nation’s capital for most of 2022, Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele (D-Hawaii) was finally spotted in Washington, D.C. amid Congress’ return to recess this week.
Kahele was seen in the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday, taking pictures with what appeared to be a tour group. Fox News reported that the encounter was the first time the congressman had appeared in person for work in DC since January.
Still, Kahele is adamant that despite the lack of his physical presence, he has not faltered on his congressional duties.
“I haven’t missed a single vote this entire year,” he told Fox News digital. “Not a single one.”
Earlier this month, the Honolulu Civil Beat found that the Democrat voted by proxy at least 120 times since taking office, only voting in person five times.
Since the start of the pandemic, members of the House have been able to submit various votes without being present on the floor by designating a fellow member to vote for them. While many cite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the reason for their absence, some have questioned if the members of Congress are actually concerned, or using it to their benefit.
As of April 12, Kahele was one of the top members of the House to use the policy, behind only three others: Democratic Reps. Albio Sires of New Jersey, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and Al Lawson of Florida.
In early April, the Hawaii lawmaker submitted a letter of intention to vote by proxy, citing the “ongoing public health emergency,” however in the days that followed, he was seen maskless at several public events across the state.
At the time of the report, speculation grew over whether Kahele was using his time away from Congress to continue his work as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines.
Kahele confirmed his intention to work with the company while in Congress, saying Tuesday “Yeah, absolutely.”
His office has defended his employment with the airline, saying he flies “occasional flights to maintain his certification.”
It is unclear how many flights Kahele has flown in 2022 so far, or how much money he has earned in the process.
Members of the House are only permitted to earn $29,595 in outside income.
Spokesman Michael Ahn told Politico this month that Kahele is “fully in compliance with Ethics.”
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