13 Sep : Setting the stage for fast track approval of the 123 Agreement by the US Congress, the Senate will take it up for hearing on Thursday with both sides hoping to wrap up the Indo-US nuclear deal during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit here on 25th September.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will testify on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee headed by Chairman Joseph Biden, who is also the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, during the hearing on 18th September.
Only 10 working days are left in the current Congressional session which ends on 26th September before the 4th November Presidential elections in the US.US President George W Bush has invited Prime Minister Singh to the White House on 25th September when the two may sign the pact if it is approved by then.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also has Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama as one of its members, but it is not clear if both Biden and Obama will be present at the hearing on Thursday afternoon, given their busy campaigning schedule.
Biden has been highly supportive of the bi-partisan effort on Capitol Hill to get the initiative through the legislative process.Political observers and members of the Indian American community, who have been watching the progress of the process pertaining to the civilian nuclear deal, say the Senate is a place where particular attention has to be focussed on because of the manner in which it operates — by unanimous consent.
This means that not a single Senator should express objection to the movement of the legislative package for consideration and vote.During the passage of the Hyde Act in 2006, 12 Senators voted against the measure as it cleared the chamber 85 to 12 votes.
All 12 of them were Democrats and several among them were Chairs of powerful Senate committees.The 12 Democrats who voted against the Hyde Act included Barbara Boxer (California); Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts); and Mark Dayton (Minnesota).
Although the administration has been calling upon Congress to have the legislation on the civilian nuclear deal out of the way "this year", both the White House and the State Department would like the civilian nuclear deal to be cleared by 26th September, the formal target adjournment date for the 110th Congress.
Given the 30-day rule for consideration of the pact while only ten legislative days are left, all eyes are on the Party leaders — Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on how they are going to carry this through by 26th September.
But there are increasing indications that Congress may come back for a Lame-Duck session to address pending issues, including perhaps the civilian nuclear deal if not cleared by the time. DDINEWS