Senate panel nod for Indo-US nuke deal but...

Senate panel nod for Indo-US nuke deal but...

Washington: As the clock ticks towards the crucial meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush, a powerful Senate panel has approved the bill on the Indo-US nuclear deal for a vote in the full Senate but suspense persists over Congress putting its seal on the measure in time.

Top Congressional aides are not sure when or how the process on the deal is going to be completed with one assessment being that it may not be fully ready for signing when Singh meets Bush at the White House tomorrow.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday voted to approve the bill by 19-2, sending it to the full Senate with only two lawmakers—Barbara Boxer and Russel Feigngold (both Democrats)—opposing the measure.

The approval means that the Indo-US bill is now in the office of the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada who will have to schedule it for a vote after consultations with the Republican Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell.

But the House Foreign Affairs Committee, headed by a major critic of the accord Howard Berman, is yet to schedule a hearing to take a decision on a vote of approval.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a Senate Bill. What happens in the House is separate," a top House Congressional aide told PTI, stressing nothing could be said about the timing in the House.

“Chairman (Howard) Berman is conferring with his colleagues, and deciding on next steps," was all that could be got out of the senior aide who declined to get into specifics.

But observers are hopeful that the House version of an Approval Bill is not too different from the Senate version as that would once again bog down the deal.