N-deal goes to House ahead of Manmohan-Bush meet

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : A Republican lawmaker has introduced the Senate version of a bill to approve the India-US civil nuclear deal in the House of Representatives as the leaders of the two nations meet here today.

Support TwoCircles

Introduction of the bill by the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, gave a last minute push to the administration’s efforts to move the deal forward before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes calling to meet President George W. Bush at the White House.

The introduction of the legislation in the House Wednesday, however did not mean that the matter will be taken up immediately, a source cautioned, but suggested that perhaps the matter may come up for discussion in the house Thursday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had voted 19-2 in favour of the accord at a business meeting Tuesday afternoon and sent the deal to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for scheduling a vote in the full Senate.

Both chambers of the Congress have to approve identical versions of the bill to clear the last hurdle before Bush can sign it and present to Manmohan Singh as a done deal.

The Senate version of the bill was introduced in the House after the House Rules Committee in an emergency session voted that certain specified measures may be considered under the suspension of the rules Sep 25.

The Rules Committee approved the suspension of rules on 44 measures, including the ninth on the list-“A Bill relating to India nuclear cooperation”.

There is still no clear indication yet on how the Congress is going to move forward with the India agreement with all kinds of speculation rife including that it may be part of an omnibus Continuing Resolution with a spending bill to keep the government running in the new financial year starting Oct 1.

There was also no word from the House Committee’s Democratic chair Howard Berman who had been holding out despite the Bush administration’s all out efforts to persuade him with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice meeting him a couple of times to keep up the push.

Berman says he supports the deal but has reservations about the Sep 6 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India for nuclear trade. His aides said that he was conferring with other lawmakers on how to move the deal forward.