N-deal sails through US House with 298-117 vote

September 28th, 2008 - 4:55 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 28 (IANS) The India-US civil nuclear deal cleared one more hurdle Saturday with the US House of Representatives approving implementing the 123 agreement by an overwhelming 298-117 vote.The House, which had put off a formal vote on the deal Friday night after a 40-minute spirited debate as it grappled with other pending legislations in a rush to wrap up its work over the weekend, approved implementing the 123 accord at 4.45 p.m. (2.15 a.m. IST Sunday) with the required two-thirds vote under suspension of rules.

Among those favouring the deal were 178 Republicans and 120 Democrats. Only 10 Republicans voted against the agreement, while 107 Democrats registered their opposition to the vote in the 435-member Democrat controlled House.

Though the vote demonstrated massive bipartisan support for the agreement that would let India resume nuclear commerce with the US after 30 years, it was much less than the 359-68 backing by which the enabling US law, the Hyde Act, was passed in 2006.

But the agreement still has to clear one last obstacle - approval by the Senate - before President George Bush can present it as a done deal to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ending his five-day visit to the US Saturday night.

Despite the smooth passage of the deal in the House, its fate still hangs in the balance with an anonymous lawmaker putting a “hold” on the consideration of the bill in the Senate. The hold must be lifted before the agreement is brought to the Senate floor for debate or approved by “unanimous consent” of the legislators.

The “hold” process involves a lawmaker telling the Majority Leader and Minority Leader that he or she is against the “hotlining” of the bill without debate and vote through Unanimous Consent.

Earlier Friday, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did indicate that the deal would likely come up for approval before the Senate only next week after its consideration by the House of Representatives Friday, but made no mention of the hold.

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