Thu, Nov 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US vote not expected to change support for Taiwan

BACKERS Although some pro-Taiwan stalwarts have retired or failed in their bids for re-election in the House and Senate races, it is unlikely that the status quo will change

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

US Congressional support for Taiwan is expected to remain as strong as before in the new term that begins in January, according to results of House and Senate races.

The biggest setback, Taiwan lobbyists in Washington say, is the loss of Florida Democrat Peter Deutsch, a representative who quit his House seat to run for a Senate seat and was defeated in the primaries earlier this year. Another setback is the loss of Pennsylvania Democrat Joseph Hoeffel, who also lost a race for a Senate seat. Elsewhere, only a handful of members of the 146-member Congressional Taiwan Caucus either retired or were defeated, a turnover that is fairly typical every two years. All four caucus co-chairmen were re-elected, and Taiwan's most ardent supporters in the lower chamber also held onto their seats.

In the 19-member Senate Taiwan Caucus, conservative Georgia Democrat Zell Miller retired, while Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost his re-election bid.

However, Miller's seat was won by former representative Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican and former House Taiwan caucus member.

Deutsch's loss is a major blow to the cadre that is in the vanguard of Taiwan's backers in Congress, especially to those who favor a tilt toward independence.

It was Deutsch who, in February, first publicized the accusation that President George W. Bush had leaned on the Republican congressional leadership to prevent the introduction of a resolution endorsing President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) planned election-day referendum.

At an appearance at a seminar at the US think tank the Heritage Foundation, Deutsch said the idea for a resolution "has extraordinary bipartisan support" in Congress and near-unanimous support in the House.

But, Deutsch said, Bush had made sure Congress did not take up the resolution until after the March 20 presidential election in Taiwan.

Fellow representative Hoeffel, also on the Heritage panel, agreed with Deutsch, accusing Bush of making a mistake. The administration "weighed in on the wrong side of this issue," he said.

In September last year, Deutsch made a speech on the floor of the House urging the House to support full diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, dual UN membership for Beijing and Taiwan, and participation by Taiwan in international bodies.

"It behooves us," he said, "to fully recognize Taiwan as a sovereign, independent nation, a democratic ally in the war on terror, a forceful nation of 23 million citizens."

With the House and Senate remaining in Republican hands, little will change institutionally to affect support for Taiwan. The leadership and the key committee chairmanships will remain the same, and the traditional widespread enthusiasm for Taiwan in the House will not change, regardless of who controls that chamber. The Senate is expected to retain its normal reluctance to approve sweeping legislation aiding Taiwan, although the roster of more symbolic bills will continue to get the nod.

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