Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan receives a raw deal from US Congress

EMPTY-HANDED Bills that contained anything of benefit to Taiwan have either been eliminated or become bogged down as US politicians worry about re-election bids

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taiwan came out of this year's US Congress session virtually empty-handed, as not a single bill of interest to Taiwan made it to US President George W. Bush's desk for him to sign into law.

The House of Representatives passed three bills with provisions to benefit Taiwan, and the Senate passed one measure, but none of the legislation received the concurrence of the other chamber. To become law, bills must be passed in identical forms by both the House and Senate.

Congress concluded its regular session for the year this past weekend, as members rush out of town to campaign for next month's elections.

Many members are facing tough fights in a year where control of one or two of the chambers could switch hands from the Republicans to the Democrats in a major shift of power in Washington.

In other years, the normal early October adjournment is put off until major legislative work is done, but because of the tight political situation this year, that was impossible.

In all likelihood, Congress may reconvene for a lame-duck session on Nov. 13 to work on must-pass bills, such as government funding measures. But it is doubtful the lawmakers would have time then to deal with measures concerning Taiwan.

In a year marked by partisan squabbling in Congress over issues such as Iraq, terrorism, immigration and corruption, only a few measures not central to those issues made it all the way into law, so Taiwan was not alone.

Less interested

But compared to recent years, lawmakers appeared less interested in pushing pro-Taiwan legislation, partly out of concern for some of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) actions, and also as a result of the need to secure China's cooperation in a number of critical national security issues such as the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea.

In addition, the Bush administration made clear its opposition to some of the more important pieces of legislation, which was sufficient to stop the bills' progress in their tracks.

But even by the standard of what many in Washington have dubbed "the do-nothing Congress," the lack of progress on pro-Taiwan legislation was striking.

House Bills supporting a Free Trade Agreement with Taiwan and seeking to allow President Chen and other top leaders from Taiwan to visit Washington never even got past the International Relations Committee, long a bastion of pro-Taiwan sentiment under its chairman Henry Hyde and top-ranking Democrat Tom Lantos.

Not one bill was introduced dealing with Taiwan's attempt to participate in the work of the WHO. In past years, several such bills were introduced and made progress.

One seemingly promising measure -- which would eliminate the arcane, restrictive rules governing communication between Taiwan and US officials in Washington and elsewhere -- was passed by the House as an amendment to a bill funding State Department activities next year, but was immediately scrapped when it got to the Senate.

Sponsorless

While that bill might come up during any lame-duck session after both chambers agree to a common version, efforts by Taiwan supporters to find a sponsor for the amendment in the Senate have all failed.

Taiwan lobbyists had hoped to get Senator George Allen, a co-chairman of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, to sponsor the amendment.

But Allen has been diverted by a re-election campaign that has gone sour over a supposed racial slur and other allegations.

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