The international relations committee of the US House of Representatives began considering a bill seeking an exemptions for India from the discriminatory nuclear regime that presently existing under US law. Early indications, based on votes on amendments to the bill, indicated that of the 45 committee members present, at least 30 were in favour of the deal, 10 were opposed and the remainder were in the balance.
The Bush administration and New Delhi, say officials, had always been confident of getting a majority for the bill. What was needed was an overwhelming majority to provide political momentum for a parallel vote in the Senate on Wednesday and, eventually, a vote in the full Congress.
Deal opponents argued that other countries would also seek similar cooperation.
Supporters were of the view the proposed act strengthened a bilateral relationship and brought India into the nuclear mainstream.
Most congressmen who spoke, however, were full of praise for India. Committee chair, Henry Hyde, said the bill was "profoundly satisfactory". Ranking Democrat, Tom Lantos, called it "defining moment in our relationship with India."
After the debate, a series of amendments designed to wreck the bill - demanding, among other things, that India sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and cap its fissile material production - were voted on by the committee.
Four were defeated by over 30 votes. Only one cosmetic amendment was accepted.
Officials say that the vote indicates the strategy of incorporating rhetorical demands of various congressmen to broad base support seemed to have worked.