M A I N   N E W S

123 vote put off again
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying Congress had an “unprecedented opportunity” before it to ensure that the US and India “complete the journey they began together three years ago”
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The House of Representatives on Friday (Saturday in India) debated a Bill on the US-India civilian nuclear deal but put off a vote even as a supporter of the initiative said delaying further action would be perceived in India as an insult to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Bill, sponsored by California Congress man Howard Berman, is co-sponsored by eight other lawmakers: Democrats Gary Ackerman, Eliot Engel and Joseph Crawley of New York, Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Nick Lampson of Texas, and Robert Wexler of Florida, and Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Ed Royce of California.

The deal is expected to sail through the House when it comes up for a vote, which sources say is likely to take place tomorrow.

In the Senate, the deal hit a roadblock when one senator anonymously blocked a vote on the Bill yesterday. Unlike in the House, in the Senate a single senator can hold up passage of a Bill. The nuclear deal has at least two opponents in the Senate, Barbara Boxer of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

The two Democrats were the only two to vote against the Bill in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. However, it is not known if either of them is responsible for blocking the deal.

Ros-Lehtinen had introduced a Bill identical to the Senate Bill in an effort to speed up the passage of the deal through Congress. Identical House and Senate Bills virtually guarantee a speedy conference session, which is called to reconcile differences between legislation passed by the two chambers of Congress.

During the debate, Ros-Lehtinen said she would vote for Berman's Bill, which she admitted was identical to hers but only after several tweaks had been made following pressure from the Bush Administration.

“This Bill is a significant improvement over the legislation we were set to consider earlier, which contained several differences with the legislation pending in the Senate,” Ros-Lehtinen said, taking a swipe at the earlier version of a Bill Berman had planned to introduce.

She said the riders in Berman's initial Bill “could well have jeopardised final approval in this Congress because there might not have been enough time left to work out and vote on a common text before we adjourn.”

Ros-Lehtinen said a delay in approval of the deal will be regarded in India and elsewhere as a “deliberate slap at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.”



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