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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

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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US Senate Upholds Arms Sales to Bahrain, Qatar

The Senate voted 43-56 against moving the Bahrain resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee

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FILE - Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters participate in a media demonstration. VOA

The U.S. Senate on Thursday turned back resolutions aimed at disapproving multi-billion-dollar arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar, amid continued intensive congressional scrutiny of weapons sales to U.S. allies in the Middle East.

The Senate voted 43-56 against moving the Bahrain resolution out of the Foreign Relations Committee and bringing it to the floor for consideration by the full chamber. It also voted 42-57 against discharging the resolution pertaining to Qatar.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the resolutions seek to block the Trump administration’s decisions, announced in May, to sell U.S. missile systems to Bahrain and attack helicopters to Qatar, each valued in the $3 billion range.

“The Middle East is a hot cauldron and continually threatening to boil over,” Paul said ahead of the votes. “I think it’s a mistake to funnel arms into these century-old conflicts.”

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday turned back resolutions aimed at disapproving multi-billion-dollar arms sales. Pixabay

Paul noted that weapons sent to the Middle East can wind up in the hands of America’s adversaries.

“In Iran to this day, they still have some U.S. weapons that are left over from the weapons the U.S. supplied the shah [U.S.-backed former Iranian leader overthrown in 1979]. In Iraq, some of the weapons we gave them to fight Iran were still there when we returned to fight Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan, some of the weapons we gave to the Mujahideen to fight the Russians [in the 1980s] were still there when we returned to fight the Taliban [after the 9-11 attacks of 2001],” Paul said.

Last year, the Senate also defeated an effort by the Kentucky Republican to block the sale of rocket systems to Bahrain.

Bipartisan backing for such sales endured on Thursday, as even some senators who voted in favor of the discharge petitions as a procedural matter told VOA they do not support the underlying resolutions of disapproval.

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“I support the [arms] sales,” said the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez of New Jersey. “On the process, I’m voting to preserve the [Senate’s] institutional rights…for at least a debate to be had over the sales, but I support the underlying sales.”

Other lawmakers spoke out against the discharge petitions as well as the resolutions.

“If they [Gulf states] don’t buy arms from us, they’re going to buy them from China or Russia,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told VOA. “Look, these countries are not democracies, we recognize that. But our interests are aligned, particularly in containing and combating Iran.”

 Bahrain has taken part in the Saudi-led coalition waging an air campaign over Yemen that has resulted in a staggering death toll in the country’s bloody civil war.
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FILE – Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2019. VOA

Asked if the bloodshed in Yemen gave him pause about U.S. arms sales to the region, Cornyn said, “It does. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do about it. It’s a civil war that the Iranians are trying to take advantage of, arming the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia. I don’t think that should paralyze us, even though it’s a serious concern.”

The Senate could vote as early as next week on separate resolutions disapproving $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

In the House of Representatives, four Democrats filed resolutions Wednesday that, if passed, would block the licenses required for the sales to move ahead.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan congressional resolution ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen.

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Aside from the Yemeni conflict, lawmakers from both parties have repeatedly protested Saudi Arabia’s role in the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. (VOA)