Washington, DC / New York: Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement was set for a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday after a key lawmaker dropped a move to impose additional requirements.
Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the House foreign affairs committee, on Thursday evening introduced an approval Bill identical to one passed earlier by a Senate committee.
Berman decided to drop his own version of the Bill after getting a call from secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, committee spokeswoman Lynne Weil said. That eliminated any need to reconcile competing versions.
After a House vote, the only remaining step would be a vote by the full Senate. While the powerful Senate foreign relations committee has approved the agreement, procedures in the Senate are tougher than in the House.
Go ahead: A file photo of Representative Howard Berman. On Thursday Berman dropped a move to impose additional requirements, introducing an approval Bill identical to one passed by a Senate committee. Chris Kleponis / Bloomberg
Unanimous consent will be needed to waive a rule that requires 30 days of consideration of the civilian nuclear accord before a vote. But the agreement has broad bipartisan support.
One complication is that members are preoccupied with the US financial crisis and a $700 billion (Rs32.5 trillion) revival package proposed by the Bush administration. This session of Congress is scheduled to end on Friday, but an extension appears likely.
In New York, foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said India did not want to comment on the internal processes of the US. He said India hoped that the agreement will be concluded soon enough, but did not want to put any timeframe to it.
Asked whether India could begin nuclear commerce with other countries before the 123 Agreement is ratified by the US Congress, Menon said: “NSG [Nuclear Suppliers Group] has given a clearance to its members to do nuclear commerce with India. The clearance is not for India, but for NSG members.”
Menon said India’s huge market for reactors and technology will ensure that “nobody will be disappointed”.
“But the suppliers will have to be economically competitive. (The) 123 Agreement is an enabling legislation. Even after it is signed, it will take a while for commercial contracts to be negotiated and price competitiveness will be a major factor in that. Nobody will be disadvantaged in the process,” he added.