Last minute hitches to Indo-US Nuke deal in Senate

Last minute hitches to Indo-US Nuke deal in Senate

Washington: Last minute hitches appeared to have cropped up today in the Senate for passage of the Bill on the Indo-US nuclear deal but an identical measure inched forward in the House of Representatives for early approval.

An anonymous lawmaker in the Senate put a “hold" on consideration of the Bill in the Senate which must be lifted before the agreement is brought to its floor or approved by a Unanimous Consent Agreement.

It, however, is not clear to what provisions of the Senate Bill that a lawmaker is objecting to.

The “hold" process involves a law maker telling the Majority leader and Minority Leader that he/she is against the “hotlining" of the Bill without debate and vote through Unanimous Consent.

However, in the House of Representatives, Howard Berman, a known opponent of the deal, agreed to support the Senate version of the Bill saying that it was in consonance with the Hyde Act.

Berman, who is the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, said he backed the Bill after the Bush Administration assured him that they will push for an NSG decision prohibiting the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to states that are not party to NPT.

The Senate Majority leader Harry Reid made no mention of this “hold" issue in his opening remarks to the Senate while laying out the agenda on Friday morning.

But he indicated that the Agreement will be taken up only next week as the Senate gears itself for extra days beyond today, when the session was scheduled to end.

“It appears quite evident that we are going to be in session next week. There are a lot of things that haven’t been done and I will mention just a couple of them," Senator Reid said, listing the issues as Department of Defence authorisation “which is very important", rail safety, Amtrak and the finalisation of the financial crisis legislation.

“We have the Indian Nuclear Agreement," he said as he noted that he had a number of conversations with President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the issue.

The Bush administration and key members of Congress were all too aware of this legislative tactic of “hold" available in the Senate where 12 Democratic lawmakers voted against the Hyde Act of 2006.

Though the Congressional nod eluded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before his meeting with President George W Bush, the revised version of Berman’s bill raises hopes that the deal could be quickly approved.

Berman, who has his own reservations over the deal, introduced in the House of Representatives a new version of his earlier bill which had some provisions like reporting by the President to the Congress which could have sabotaged early Congressional nod for the agreement.