Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US Congress to back Taiwan: Deutsch

UNOFFICIAL MEANS Pro-Taiwan lawmakers in the US blasted the Bush administration's policy toward Taiwan and said they might be willing to sign an open letter of support

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN WASHINGTON

A leading Democratic supporter of Taiwan in Congress Thursday blamed intense opposition by the Bush administration for scuttling any chance of a congressional resolution endorsing President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) planned election day referendum. But the congressman endorsed a suggestion that Congress pursue an alternative method to publicize congressional support through unofficial means.

An alternative such as a public letter, petition or advertisement in major US newspapers would garner support from a majority of members of Congress, despite the administration's objections, said Florida Representative Peter Deutsch.

Such a public display of support for the referendum would be signed by a number in the "high 300s" of members of Congress, he said during an appearance at a seminar sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

There are 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 members in the Senate.

A resolution supporting a referendum "has extraordinary bipartisan support" in Congress, Deutsch said. "The numbers in the house would be close to unanimous."

However, "it is clear that it will not come up between now and the election," he said, despite concerted efforts by Taiwan lobbyists in Washington and supportive congressmen get a resolution introduced and passed, at least by the House, before March 20.

President Bush has "weighed in extraordinarily heavily to prevent the resolution from being adopted," Deutsch said.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, normally Congress' most powerful and ardent supporter of Taiwan, has decided against allowing a pro-referendum congressional resolution in deference to Bush's opposition, Deutsch said.

"Tom DeLay's initial reaction was to have a resolution," he said.

However, he changed his mind to accede to the administration's position, Deutsch said.

DeLay's "support for Taiwan is only overweighed by his deciding not to hurt the president," he said.

Deutsch said that the people of Taiwan "should not take that in a negative sense. The Congress is close to universal in a position of support for the referendum."

A fellow Democratic Taiwan supporter, congressman Joseph Hoeffel of Pennsylvania, agreed with Deutsch.

"I think the Bush administration has made a mistake. They have weighed in on the wrong side of this issue, and I would like to see Congress weigh in with our support for the right of the Taiwan[ese] people to have this vote," he said.

California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, one of Taiwan's leading champions on Capitol Hill, refrained from criticizing the Republican Bush administration's opposition of the congressional resolution, saying the issue was the greed to the US business community.

"This has to do with the financial establishment of the United States pressuring our government to forget our values and forget our friends so they can make a profit in China," he said.

Rohrabacher said Taiwan should be entitled to hold a referendum on whatever it chooses.

"I don't know what all the hubbub is about," he said. "If the people want to have a vote on an issue, what's the big deal? They should have a vote on the issue."

The idea for an unofficial statement of congressional support in the absence of a formal resolution backing the referendum came at the seminar from Arthur Waldron, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and head of the Asia section of the Washington-based conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.

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