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Bush admn woos Indian Americans to push N-deal

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | September 14, 2008 16:35 IST

As it reaches out to the Indian American community leaders given their lobbying prowess, the Bush Administration is understood to have assured them that the recent Presidential submission on the 123 Agreement to the Congress had nothing that contravened what India and the US had agreed under the nuclear deal.

Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Deal

The administration is leaving no stone unturned as it races against time to have the US-India civilian nuclear agreement completed by the Congressional adjournment date of September 26 even if indications are there that the lawmakers may return for a Lame-Duck Session after the November 4 presidential elections.

It is learnt that the administration has stepped up efforts in getting the measure approved before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] visit to Washington on September 25 during which he will meet President George W Bush [Images] at the White House.

Don't rush N-deal vote, say Democratic lawmakers

The White House has opened yet another channel in its lobbying efforts -- the Indian American community leaders who played a vital role in the passage of the Hyde Act in 2006 in the 109th Congress.

It is learnt that the administration reached out to a small group of powerful members of the Indian American community through a conference call, the primary objective of which was apparently to explain the significance of the Presidential submission to Congress and has assured them that there is nothing that contravenes what India and the US have agreed upon by way of the 123 Agreement.

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From the administration side, the conference call had the participation of senior officials of the White House, the National Security Council and the State Department.

One of the things that the administration conveyed to the community leaders is the imperative to start reaching out to Congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate very similar to the lines that had been done in the run up to the passage of the Hyde Act in 2006.

50:50 chance on N-deal, US politician tells Deora

The administration, it is learnt, is under no illusion about the challenge on hand -- getting through the civilian nuclear legislation with only ten legislative days left before the curtains are supposed to come down on the 110th Congress.
The two major players in the House will be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman.

Senior members of the Indian American Community are not taking things 'easy' as far as the process in the House of Representatives is concerned even though they seem to think that the Senate is a 'bigger' challenge, a view apparently shared by the administration.

'Many unanswered questions in the N-deal'

The bigger apprehension as far as the Senate is that unlike the House in which change in procedures could be ruled on by the Rules Committee, the procedure in the Senate is by unanimous consent in which not even a single Senator should object to the Bill being brought to the floor for an Up-Down vote.

Twelve Senators had voted against the Hyde Act -- all of them Democrats and several like Robert Byrd and Patrick Leahy are Chairs of very powerful Senate Committees such as Appropriations and the Judiciary.

Seal the deal before other nations get in: Boucher

The administration knows well that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in favour of the civilian nuclear deal but the focus ought to be elsewhere -- on those lawmakers who had opposed the Hyde Act with a request that they could still be opposed to the measure but not to stand in the way of coming to the floor for a vote.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said the hearing on the US-India civilian nuclear cooperation will be held next Thursday with the senior administration official William Burns, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, being the principal witness.

McCain hails Indian-Americans

The House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Democrat Berman has not scheduled a hearing with a spokesperson for the Panel telling PTI that 'hearings are always optional'.

The opening out to the Indian American community only reinforces the multi-pronged strategy of the administration -- going on its own steam, dangling out the $100 billion bill through business contracts by way of nuclear trade and the political power of the Indian American community.

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