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US: Indian Americans make a mark in Congressional Politics with one of them becoming the first to be elected to the Senate

The first Indian elected to Congress is Dalip Singh Saund, who won from California in 1956

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California State Senate Chamber. Pixabay
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New York, November 9, 2016: Indian Americans made a mark in Congressional politics with one of them becoming the first to be elected to the Senate and four others winning seats in the House of Representatives.

Kamala Harris was elected from California to the Senate defeating fellow-Democrat Loretta Sanchez.

Pramila Jayapal from Washington, Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois and Ro Khanna from California will join Ami Bera, who was re-elected from California, in the House of Representatives.

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Tulsi Gabbard, who is a Hindu although not of Indian descent, was re-elected to the House from Hawaii.

All Democrats, they range in age from 35 years to 52 years and represent the emerging class of leaders.

“Winning a Senatorial seat combined with several Congressional victories, has made the community somewhat reach its goal of political involvement,” Thomas Abraham, Chairman, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, told IANS.

“This also help the US and India to come closer as a global partner in trade, investment, education, science and technology, military cooperation and fighting terrorism.”

The victory of Harris is significant because senators are elected by the entire electorate in their states and California is the most populous state in the nation with 18 million voters.

The 52-year-old Harris, who traces her family roots to Chennai, is a lawyer by profession and was twice elected Attorney General in 2010 and 2014.

Bera, a 51-year-old doctor, had come under a cloud after his 83-year-old father, Babulal Bera, was found guilty of illegally funding his son’s election campaign and sentenced to a year in prison. Prosecutors, however, cleared Ami Bera of involvement in his father’s crime and he beat the odds to defeat his Republican rival Scott Jones.

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A financial analyst by profession, Jayapal, 51, defeated fellow Democrat, Brady Wilkinshaw. A civil rights activist involved in immigrant and women’s rights causes, she was born in India. She received the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the insurgent socialist who ran against Hillary Clinton in the party primary.

Krishnamoorthi, 43, who had advised President Barack Obama on economic issues when he was a Senator, received a personal endorsement and a promotional video from Obama. He defeated Republican Peter DiCianni in a constituency that comprises Chicago suburbs.

Born in India, he is a technology entrepreneur heading two companies and has also served as Illinois state Deputy Treasurer and an Assistant Attorney General on special assignment to fight corruption.

Khanna, a former federal Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary, won from the heart of Silicon Valley on his second try. With the endorsement of former President Jimmy Carter, he defeated sitting Congressman Mike Honda in a bitter rematch.

Harris has a dual identity: She is also counted as an African American as her father is a Jamaican of African descent and she follows the Baptist faith.

She would also become the second American woman of African descent elected to the Senate and joins two other African Americans in the Senate.

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After her parents divorced, Harris was raised by her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer specialist from Chennai, giving her equal claim to Indian heritage.

Gabbard’s Republican rival Angela Kaaihue launched bigoted attack on her with anti-Hindu statements and called her a “pathetic Hindu 1,000 gods leader.” Republican Party leaders condemned Kaaihue and withdrew support to her.

The first Indian elected to Congress is Dalip Singh Saund, who won from California in 1956. (IANS)

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Christine Ford Testifies Against Brett Kavanaugh; Decision Pending

If Kavanaugh is confirmed for the Supreme Court, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer.

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Brett Kavanaugh
In this combination image of Reuters photos, Christine Blasey Ford, left, and Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify separately before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

It was a day of drama, tears and tempers in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh angrily denying a charge of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a party in 1982 when they were teenagers.

Both got the chance to tell their stories to the Senate Judiciary Committee during a nearly nine-hour-long hearing.

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh told the senators. “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

Hours earlier, Ford told the panel she was “100 percent certain” it was a drunken Kavanaugh who pinned her down on a bed, groped her, tried to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams for help.

Kavanaugh told the senators he attended no such party. He accused Democrats of seeking to avenge Hillary Clinton’s election loss by mounting a calculated attack for political gain and engaging in grotesque character assassination.

Kavanaugh vowed he will not be intimidated into withdrawing.

The Judiciary Committee, with 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, plan to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday and, if approved, will send it to the entire Senate, which will begin procedural votes Saturday.

 

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

 

Late Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While, he said, it took courage for Ford to testify, there was no evidence to corroborate her allegations.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he is still weighing his vote after hearing Ford and Kavanaugh testify.

Asked how he will vote, Flake said, “Let me process it.”

 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, also said she needs time to decide how she will vote. She is running for re-election in a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump.

Sen. Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, said he is voting no on Kavenaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. “The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Ford’s testimony

Earlier in the day, Ford testified that she feared that Kavanaugh was “going to accidentally kill” her during the alleged incident in 1982.

She said what she remembers most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge’s “uproarious laughter” during the incident and “having fun at my expense.”

Democratic senators repeatedly praised Ford for her courage in coming forward.

A prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, questioned Ford on behalf of Senate Republicans. She asked Ford about timelines and peripheral issues and did not challenge her basic account of sexual assault. But Ford’s account lacked firm corroboration of her claims by others at the party.

Kavanaugh’s testimony

Kavanaugh was much angrier, strident and emotional.

He “unequivocally and categorically” denied the charges and cried as he spoke of how the ordeal has wrecked his family. He presented the senators with what he said were handwritten calendars from 1982 showing his activities and whereabouts. He says they did not include the party.

Kavanaugh said he welcomes whatever the investigation the committee wants, but would not directly answer whether he would approve an FBI probe.

Brett Kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh gives his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Admitting he loves drinking beer, he pointed to what he says was his outstanding academic record and dedication to high school sports and church.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Kavanaugh and blamed Democrats for not disclosing the accusations earlier.

“As part of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the FBI conducted its sixth full field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993, 25 years ago. Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports … was there a whiff of any issue, any issue at all related to anyway inappropriate sexual behavior.”

But Democrats did not buy Kavanaugh’s self-portrayal of an angelic choir boy. Senator Patrick Leahy pointed to Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page and its jokes about heavy drinking and sex.

Brett Kavanaugh
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., makes a point during a hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham lost his temper during his time to question Kavanaugh. He accused Democrats of an “unethical sham” and warning Republicans that if they vote not to confirm Kavanaugh, they would legitimize “the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.”

Trump stands by his man

President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He tweeted that the judge showed Americans exactly why he was chosen.

Trump’s tweet did not mention Ford.

No clear winner

Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro, says it is unclear if anyone came out ahead after Thursday’s testimony.

Also Read: Video- USA Gears Up For Its Midterm Elections

“We’re at a dangerous point because if we have no more evidence and Kavanaugh’s rejected, that sets the precedent that accusations are enough to derail … and if he’s approved, then still there will be people who think that he’s a sexual assaulter or rapist and there he is sitting at the Supreme Court.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer. (VOA)