Three Democrat lawmakers have cautioned the US Congress against rushing through with a vote on the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal "waiving US law through unorthodox procedure" to beat "an imaginary clock".
In a joint letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman, lawmakers Edward Markey, Ellen Tauscher and John Spratt said the deal contained many lingering questions and required further examination.
"We strongly oppose rushing consideration of the proposal to adhere to an imaginary clock since the process of full congressional oversight and deliberation necessarily and properly requires a significant investment of time," the trio from the House of Representatives said.
Markey is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee while Ellen O. Tauscher is the chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Sub-committee and John Spratt that of the House Budget Committee.
"The Bush administration is lobbying hard to rush consideration of this unprecedented nuclear deal," they said referring to President George W. Bush's request, who is keen to get the deal approved before he leaves office in January to underscore a major foreign policy victory.
"This tactic is unwise and inappropriate because serious questions remain about whether the deal is consistent with the law of the land - the Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act," said the trio led by Markey, a consistent critic of the India deal.
"The non-proliferation issues at stake in this deal are too important to be glossed over in a rush to beat the clock. Congress should spend the time needed to dissect the details of this agreement before taking any votes," they said.
The lawmakers said "many questions remain concerning whether or not the so-called 123 Agreement, the India-International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards Agreement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver, and the various presidential certifications and reports meet the requirements of, and are consistent with, the Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act".
The NSG waiver for India, which was approved Sep 6, clearly does not incorporate the restrictions and conditions on US nuclear trade mandated by the Hyde Act, such as the requirement that nuclear cooperation be immediately halted if India conducts a nuclear test, they said.
They urged Berman "to take all necessary time to carefully review the president's submission, hold hearings and seek answers to any outstanding questions".
He should also take whatever steps are necessary to bring the "proposal into full conformity with the Atomic Energy Act, the Hyde Act of 2006, and international standards and practices" as described in his Aug 5 letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.