The Indo-US nuclear deal was on Thursday assured a virtually smooth passage in the US Congress with a ringing endorsement from a key panel of the Senate.
A 16-2 vote in the 18-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just two days after the 37-5 majority in the House panel, reflected the success of efforts made by President Bush's people in building a bipartisan consensus for the "historic" legislation that the White House had declared its top priority.
To that end, like their counterparts in the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, the Senate panel's Republican Chairman Richard Lugar and leading Democrat Joseph Biden chose to bring forward an altogether new bill instead of the one they had introduced in March at Bush administration's bidding.
Approval of the enabling legislation by the Senate panel made up of ten Republicans and eight Democrats paves the way for its introduction before the two houses of US Congress some time in mid-July, when the Congress reconvenes after a ten-day recess.
However, before that the two panels would have to work out a common language, as the two drafts, though reflecting a common intent, differ in their approaches to a legislation which according to both would become a cornerstone for Indo-US relations.