Washington (PTI): The Indo-US nuclear deal has moved into the last lap clearing a major hurdle when the House of Representatives approved a legislation on it that will now go to the Senate before the two countries can implement the civil nuclear agreement. After its passage in the House, the N-deal now moves to the Senate, which is likely to vote on the Bill on Monday.
After a lot of drama and suspense, the House passed the Bill on an unusual extra day of sitting on Saturday with bipartisan support but a considerable number of Democrats were still opposed to it.
The Berman Bill H R 7081, named after Howard Berman, a Democrat strongly opposed to the deal on non-proliferation grounds and who converted only a couple of days ago, was adopted with 298 voting for and 117 against. One lawmaker merely voted present.
Before the approval of the legislation in the US House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had said the landmark agreement could be brought to a vote in his Chamber, possibly as early as Monday.
"... what are we going to do on Monday? We may have to have a vote on the defence authorisation Bill.... we've got to do the defence authorisation Bill, we have to do Amtrak. we have to do the nuclear treaty with India," Reid said on the Senate floor on Saturday.
He also urged his colleagues in the Senate to drop their objections to the deal.
The Senate Majority Leader's appeal came against the backdrop of information that it is not a lone Senator who has placed a "hold" on the movement of the Bill of Approval of the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in the Senate.
Sources have told PTI that the number of Senators who have placed a "hold" could be as high as five.
Senior Republican sources have immediately distanced themselves from the "hold", pointing to the fact that no lawmaker in the Senate from the Grand Old Party has stood in the way since the time of the Hyde Act in 2006.
Reid said: "...we're taking a look at, a package of bills. Each one of those is something we can complete next week. For people who are concerned about the India nuclear agreement -- and there are several Senators that have concerns about that -- all we would be doing is running out the time."
Though a Congressional consent eluded the deal when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush when they met on Thursday, the House approval came hours before the Prime Minister left the US shores winding up his five-day visit on his way to France.
Once the Senate gives its nod, the nuclear agreement between the two countries will be ready for signing between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Secretary o State Condoleezza Rice, who is slated to visit New Delhi on October 3.
The Administration is keen on signing the deal before the end of the term of Bush who had entered into the agreement with Singh more than three years ago that will end three decades of nuclear apartheid against India.
National Security Advisor M K Narayanan welcomed the adoption of the deal by the House saying it was a matter of great satisfaction. He expressed the hope that the Bill would get cleared in the Senate sooner than later rather than wait for the next session.
Hailing the House action, Indian Ambassador to US Ronen Sen said it would now be the last lap of a historic step for both the countries. The deal enjoyed bi-partisan support and was good for both India and the US.
South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson, one of the strongest supporters of the legislation and the agreement, hailed the vote saying it moved the US one step forward in strengthening the partnership with people of India.
Despite the US Congress being busy in the midst of clearance of a package for the financial institutions gone bankrupt, the House met unusually on a Saturday for conducting business.
The vote on the nuclear Bill was suspended on Saturday after another opponent Ed Markey demanded a recorded vote instead of a voice vote after the debate was completed.
Berman had originally introduced a Bill that was slightly different from the measure approved by the Senate Committee and adoption of it would have delayed implementation of the nuclear deal. Berman was talked to by Rice after which he withdrew his original Bill and introduced a legislation identical to the Senate Committee that ensured its quick passage.
Joe Wilson said he was grateful for the work of President Bush, Prime Minister Singh and Rice for their steadfast support in seeing this agreement implemented.
Earlier, the House completed a lively debate that saw Markey putting up a stiff opposition to the deal with India.
6 months ago