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Terror tops agenda of US Congress

January 01, 2009 17:14 IST

Meeting in the midst of an economic crisis, which is said to be the worst-ever after the great depression of the last century, and during the crucial hase of the war against terrorism, US lawmakers are eager to get cracking from day one when the 111th Congress convenes next week.
 
As the Congress now dominated by the Democrats meets the major legislation it would take up would be the President-elect Barack Obama's election pledge to step up US deployment in Afghanistan to undertake a decisive push to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban and other terrorist groups.
 
The US-led war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan too would dominate the proceedings of the House of
Representatives and the Senate as they convene for business on January 4.
 
On the subject of terrorism, the role of Pakistan, which many in the new administration and key Congressional
leaders believe is the source of all terrorist activities, is expected to come in for special attention as lawmakers discuss the next step forward in the war against the scourge specially in Afghanistan.
 
Immigration reform is another issue, which would come up majorly before the Congress, and would be keenly watched by Indian-Americans and Indian as well. A number of Indian IT companies and US multinationals are lobbying before the Congress to increase the cap on the much sought after H-1B visas for professionals.
 
All indications coming from the House and the Senate are that the lawmakers would not even wait till the
Inauguration Day or wait for the State of the Union Address, as has been the tradition on serious legislative businesses as they believe that time is running out fast to resolve some of the critical issues.

Plans are afoot by the Congressional leadership in such a way that Obama would have a few legislations on his table to sign them into law as he walks into his Oval office on January 20, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.
     
Elections for the 111th Congress were held November 4 along with the US Presidential elections. Riding on a
bama-wave the Democrats consolidated their hold over both the House of Representatives and Senate.
     
The 435-member House of Representatives has 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans, a gain of 21 seats for the
Democrats than the 110th Congress. Similarly the 100-member Senate has 58 democrats and 41 Republicans. The Democrats gained seven Senate seats in the November elections; and one race--in Minnessota-- is yet to be decided.
     
A Democratic-dominated Congress, analysts say, could also devote a lot of attention on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and this is expected to bring some attention on India as it pertains to the civilian nuclear arrangement
between New Delhi and Washington and the persisting questions that have been raised by a handful of Democrats in the House and the Senate.
     
India's relationship with Iran could also be used by anti-India lobby at the Congress in coming months as the Obama administration formulates its policies against Tehran.
     
However, Congressional observers say India do not need to worry much given that Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, who has been nominated as next Secretary of State, are the two known friends of India and are holding  the top two positions in the new administration.
     
Further an effective Indian-American lobby, which many have started comparing with the powerful Jewish lobby, clubbed with the influential India Caucus at the Capitol Hill friends of India believe that interests of the country and the community can be protected in the new Congress.

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