Washington, Nov 17 (IANS) US Senate Thursday accorded initial approval to the India-US civilian nuclear deal as it passed a landmark enabling legislation by an overwhelming 85-12 vote after a marathon 10-hour debate.
The final vote in the Senate's ongoing lame-duck session came after the upper chamber rejected what the deal's bipartisan prime movers called 5 "killer" amendments by equally wide margins with naysayers getting only between 26 and 38 votes.
The legislation will now go to a conference of the two chambers' foreign relations panels to work out the differences with a companion bill passed last July by the House of Representatives by an equally overwhelming 359-68 votes.
The Senate asked its conferees to insist on its version. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar does not expect the conference to be contentious.
Once the conferees agree on an identical bill, the two chambers will have to approve it again before sending it to the White House for President George W. Bush to sign it into a law.
If for some reason the process is not completed before the end of the year, it will go back to square one and fresh bills will have to be introduced in the new Congress.