Today's Paper

Road map of process and procedure

K.V. Prasad

WASHINGTON: Assuming that the Indian government completes the two stages — a country-specific agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group — and President George Bush submits his report to the U.S. Congress immediately, the following is the laid down process before Congress makes its decision known:

1. Congress must approve the text of “123 Agreement” in a joint resolution of approval.

2. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have to come to an agreement. The law says the committees have up to 45 days of “continuous session” to hold hearings and make a report.

3. The committees report a joint resolution of approval or disapproval. A joint resolution, when submitted to the President for signature or a veto, has the force of law.

4. If the committees do not act within the 45-day period, they are automatically discharged from considering the agreement.

5. The leadership on the House and Senate side can then consider a leadership resolution of approval or disapproval.

6. Debate in the House of Representatives is limited.

7. Before a final vote, the Senate gets 10 hours of debate. The actual time for debate does not include the time taken for procedural votes. Depending on how the members use parliamentary tools, the debate can take two to three days.

8. Amendments to a Senate resolution are not possible.

9. The House is likely to bar amendment.

10. Then, if both Houses pass a resolution, it goes to the President for signature.

11. If either chamber of the Congress disapproves, the deal is dead for now.

The current schedule is for Congress to go into recess on August 1.

It will come back after the national conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties slated to be held between the last week of August and the first week of September.

Congress is scheduled to meet for three weeks from September 8 to 26, the target date for adjournment. This means that for all practical purposes the 110th Congress is over.

The only other window is a lame duck session, which means Congress reconvenes after the elections.

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