The India-US nuclear deal has been caught up in a political tiff between majority Republican and minority Democrat leaders with the two blaming each other for the delay in bringing it before the Senate.
Both sides alleged that the other had blocked a unanimous consent proposal - a request to set aside a specified rule of procedure so as to expedite proceedings - that would have guaranteed Senate consideration and a final vote on the enabling bill before Congress adjourns for the November elections.
Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist said "colleagues on the other side of the aisle" had objected to his offer of a unanimous consent agreement to ensure that the Senate could complete consideration of the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation legislation in a reasonable period of time.
Claiming that the boot was on the other leg, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said, "unfortunately, the Republican Leader had objected" to his proposal.
The facts are that Republican differences over the substance of the bill have delayed its consideration and some of those disagreements have still not been resolved, as he had learned in his discussions with Senator Frist, he said.
He was responding to Frist's "call on my Democratic colleagues to work with us to develop a unanimous consent agreement to enable the Senate to consider this important measure on the floor this week."
Senate Democrats have been strong supporters of the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation bill since the administration announced this proposal in March and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved it in June, Reid said.
Unfortunately, since this bill was favourably acted on by the Foreign Relations Committee, the Republican leader chose to bring 16 different legislative matters to the Senate floor rather than this important legislation, which is critical to the US-India relationship, he said.
"I do believe it is important for the Senate to act on this matter without further delay. Its passage would mean so much to the vitally important US-India relationship. I pledge to do what I can to ensure that we do just that. I hope the Majority Leader will not pass up yet another opportunity to get this bill done," Reid said.
Frist too said the enactment of this legislation is critical to advancing US-India relations and will help create export opportunities for American businesses.
"We need time to work out the differences with the companion legislation passed by the House. Therefore, the Senate cannot afford to wait until November to pass this critical piece of legislation," he pointed out.