The India-US civilian nuclear agreement was set for a vote in the House of Representatives, after a key lawmaker dropped a move to impose additional requirements on Friday.
California Democrat Howard Berman, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Thursday evening introduced an approval bill identical to one passed earlier by a Senate committee. He decided to drop his own version of the bill after getting a call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, committee spokeswoman Lynne Weil said. That eliminated any need to reconcile competing versions.
After a House vote, the only step remaining would be a vote by the full Senate. While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the agreement, procedures in the Senate are tougher than those in the House.
Unanimous consent will be needed to waive a rule that requires 30 days of consideration before a vote.
But the agreement enjoys broad, bipartisan support.
One complication is that members are preoccupied with the financial crisis in the United States and a $700 billion revival package proposed by the administration.
This session of Congress is scheduled to end on Friday, but an extension appears likely.
In New York, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said India didn’t want to comment on internal processes of the US. He said India hoped that the deal will be concluded soon enough, but did not want to put any timeframe to it.
Asked if India could begin nuclear commerce with other countries before the 123 agreement is ratified by Congress, Menon said: “NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) has given a clearance to its members to do nuclear commerce with India. The clearance is not for India, but for NSG members.” He said India’s huge market for would ensure that “nobody will be disappointed”.
“But the suppliers will have to be economically competitive. The 123 agreement is an enabling legislation. Even after it is signed, it will take a while for commercial contracts to be negotiated and price competitiveness will be major factor in that. Nobody will be disadvantaged in the process,” he added.