Democrat-dominated House to vote on restraining Trump’s actions against Iran

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the planned vote in a one-page statement that said last week’s drone strike was ‘provocative and disproportionate.’ (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Democrat-dominated House to vote on restraining Trump’s actions against Iran

  • The Democratic war powers resolution seems certain to pass over solid Republican opposition
  • Democrats criticized as lacking specific justification the killing of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani

WASHINGTON: The House will vote Thursday on a measure limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran as Democratic criticism of the US killing of a top Iranian general intensified.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the planned vote in a one-page statement that said last week’s drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani was “provocative and disproportionate.”
The Democratic war powers resolution seems certain to pass over solid Republican opposition. A similar proposal by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, faces an uphill fight in the GOP-run Senate.
Because of a procedural dispute between the two parties, it was unclear whether Thursday’s vote would be a step toward binding Trump’s hands on Iran or a symbolic gesture of opposition by Democrats.
Republicans say the proposal — a special type of resolution that does not get the president’s signature — does not have the force of law. Democrats say that under the 1973 War Powers Act, it would be binding if also approved by the Senate. The matter has not been definitively decided by federal courts.
The House vote was scheduled shortly after a briefing on Iran Wednesday by top administration officials that many Democrats criticized as lacking specific justification for the killing. Iran retaliated early Wednesday local time by launching missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American troops. No casualties were reported.
“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Pelosi said in her statement.
“Congress hereby directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war on that country or enacts legislation authorizing use of force to prevent an attack on the US and its forces, the five-page resolution says.
“I think it’s extremely important that we as a country, if we are going to — either intentionally or accidentally — slide into war, that we have a debate about it,” said freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, the measure’s sponsor. Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official who served in Iraq.
“I want to understand ... what’s your strategy?” she said, referring to the Trump administration. “How do you know you’re succeeding and not just escalating us into something more and more dangerous? We are owed concrete, specific details on strategy.”
The showdown between the White House and Capitol Hill was the latest example of Trump’s willingness to break the norms in Washington. Trump did not consult with congressional leaders ahead of the attack that killed the Iranian general and afterward sent Congress a notification explaining the rationale, but kept it classified.
Congress has allowed its war powers role to erode since the passage of Authorization for Use of Military Force in 2001 to fight terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, and passage of another AUMF for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
Fallout from those votes deeply divided Congress and the nation, with many lawmakers, particularly Democrats, now saying they were mistakes. Yet Congress has been paralyzed on the question of whether to repeal or change those authorities.


Sri Lanka launches online portal for migrant workers amid virus scare

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance in Atulugama on March 29, 2020, after the town was sealed off by health authorities following fears that it could be a cluster for COVID-19 infection after two positive cases. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 2 sec ago

Sri Lanka launches online portal for migrant workers amid virus scare

  • Inquiries include the welfare of student populations, extension of visa permits, lack of financial support for the unemployed, non-payment of salaries, the closing down of commercial establishments and questions related to quarantine measures on arrival

COLOMBO: To help its overseas migrant workers deal with the coronavirus, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Relations has launched an online portal where citizens can voice their concerns, officials said on Sunday.

“All Sri Lankans living abroad were invited to register voluntarily on the platform . . . allowing the government to reach out and provide assistance during emergencies such as the Covid-19 outbreak. This platform will allow the ministry to access real-time data for quick action,” an official from the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Since its launch on March 26, the “Contact Sri Lanka” portal has seen 17,000 registrations, with several saying they want to return home as soon as possible.

“A bulk of the 700 inquiries received through the portal relate to the possibility of a return to the country,” excerpts from a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and made available to Arab News, read on Sunday.

Registration by residents in the country will also allow the ministry to propose concrete policy decisions in critical response situations, such as evacuation measures, depending on the number of emergency assistance requests generated, the statement said.

It added that establishment of the portal was based on a “call made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for coordinated efforts by all government stakeholders to fight the Covid-19 outbreak and to harness digital technology to prompt faster and more efficient service delivery.”

Deputy General Manager of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) W. Leelaratne told Arab News that Sri Lankan employees, particularly at missions in the Middle East and Asia, would be working with host governments “to secure fair treatment and concessions for expatriate workers to the maximum extent possible.”

“This includes safeguarding the rights of the workers related to the payment of salaries and ensuring job security, ” he said.

Leelaratne said that due to the current global situation; the SLBFE has opened a 24/7 help desk for all migrant workers who could seek assistance by contacting the hotline.

Inquiries include the welfare of student populations, extension of visa permits, lack of financial support for the unemployed, non-payment of salaries, the closing down of commercial establishments and questions related to quarantine measures on arrival.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe, director general of Health Services, said that the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 110 with the detection of four new cases on Sunday.

Two of the four cases were arrivals from the south Indian city of Chennai, with Jasinghe saying that the government had requested all those flying in from Chennai to report to the nearest health facility for mandatory quarantine arrangements.

As an additional measure, the villages of Atulugama, Akurana and Kadayankulam have been placed under lockdown, while the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Puttalam and Jaffna have been declared high-risk zones with a full-day curfew to continue in these areas until further notice.