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US Senate goes into recess without taking up N-deal bill

September 30, 2006 19:50 IST

The United States Senate on Saturday formally went into recess prior to the November 7 Congressional polls without taking up a bill on enabling Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation as the ruling and opposition lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on how to deal with the legislation.

'The United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006' or 'S 3709' did not make it because Republican and Democratic leaderships could not come to terms on the "Unanimous Consent Agreement," the broad framework on how the bill will be dealt.

Prior to the adjournment, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist tried to proceed with the enabling legislation by staying only with the Manager's Amendments provided by Senators Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden.

Frist argued once again that Republicans were prepared to table the legislation with no further amendments and that the measure could be voted on and sent to the Conference over the recess period to hammer out the differences.

But the Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would not budge, insisting that the Grand Old Party was to blame for the delay, having come up with Title Two of the Legislation, on an Additional Protocol between the US and International Atomic Energy Agency.

Reid argued that the legislation was too important to be rushed through and maintained that it could be taken up as a "priority" in the 'lame duck' session after Congressional elections.

Earlier, Frist had made the point that he had offered the Democrats five Amendments to be debated for one hour each and a general floor debate of one hour for a total of six hours for the legislation.

The Democrats, going by what Minority Leader Reid said, are demanding second degree Amendments and flexibility in the number of amendments that are to be offered.

Reid had argued that the timeframe for the amendments could be so worked out that the legislation can be finished in one "long" day.

"I hope that before we leave here, today or tomorrow or Sunday or whenever it might be that, we will have it on so-called automatic pilot so that we take this up when we get back. I would hope that would be the case," Reid told the Senate yesterday.

Both Frist and Reid underlined the importance of passing the nuclear deal bill in the overall context of the enhanced strategic relationship between the US and India and have said the legislation will be a top priority when the Senate comes back for the 'lame duck' session.

But there is no formal word yet in the official Senate Calendar if an Unanimous Consent Agreement on S 3709, the civilian nuclear deal legislation, has been reached.

No formal announcement has come from the Majority and the Minority Leaders either.

The Senate adjourned on at 2:27 in the morning after passing the Secure Fence Act of 2006, to fence the US border with Mexico, and agreeing to a Conference Report on Department of Defence Appropriations for 2007.

It has been announced that the chamber will reconvene on November 9 for the introduction of bills and will have a formal session on November 13 to begin a period of business.
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC
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