The race to secure Congressional approval for the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement in this session continued on Thursday with the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives.
But there was concern that an item in a separate list of measures that could be discussed and voted on might prove to be a hurdle.
<b1>This made it more difficult to say whether ratification would be completed by the time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets President Bush on Thursday evening in Washington. For that to happen, both Houses of Congress will have to approve measures with identical language.
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the Senate version of the approval bill in the House on Wednesday night, sources said.
Earlier in the day, a committee agreed to suspend the rules so that the House could consider the matter on Thursday. “It shall be in order at any time on the legislative day of September 25, 2008, for the Speaker to entertain motions that the House suspend the rules” relating to certain measures, the Rules Committee resolved. At No 9 on the list of measures was “A bill relating to India nuclear cooperation.”
The “United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement” Bill, which was sent to the full Senate on Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is believed to have the administration's support.
An item added to the “suspension list” by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, Democrat of California, angered supporters of the agreement, including the Indian American Republican Council. “His bill is meant to kill the agreement because it attaches language ... regarding Iran,” said IARC spokeswoman Nina Verghese.
But Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Berman, said, “At this hour Chairman Berman has not yet introduced legislation on the agreement.”
A Congressional aide said the suspension list includes descriptions of bills that have not yet been introduced.
Berman is an advocate of non-proliferation.
To complicate matters, members of both Houses are preoccupied with the financial crisis in the United States and a $700-billion revival package proposed by the administration. Before his talks with Singh, Bush was to hold a meeting on ways to deal with the crisis with Congressional leaders, including presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
This session of Congress is scheduled to end on Friday, but an extension appears likely.