Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 3 News List

[Analysis] Impact of Democrats' win unclear

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Democratic Party's control of the US Senate, which was clinched when the Senate's Taiwan Caucus co-chairman George Allen of Virginia conceded defeat in his re-election bid, is expected to be a mixed bag for Taiwan, in contrast to the gains Taiwan can expect from the landslide Democratic capture of the House of Representatives.

With Allen's concession, along with the concession of Montana Republican Conrad Burns, the Democrats gained six seats in the Senate, giving them a 51-49 edge over the Republicans, their first majority in that chamber in four years.

How that will affect Taiwan's legislative fortunes is still unclear.

Traditionally, the Senate has been averse to passing narrowly tailored legislation such as those that are generally introduced in Congress affecting Taiwan, dealing with such issues as military cooperation, Taiwan participation in the WHO, high-level visits by Taiwanese officials to Washington and the US' "one-China" policy.

In that regard, both Republican and Democratic Senators often seemed to agree with each other, in a chamber that sees itself as a deliberative body, in contrast to the House, where passions run high and more extreme issues gain legislative traction.

Taiwan supporters are looking at Nevada Senator Harry Reid, now the minority leader and in line to become the majority leader, to give Taiwan more time than did the current leader,

While Reid's main strength is in domestic issues, he has spoken out strongly in favor of Taiwan in the past.

Speaking in favor of Taiwan's participation in the WHO during the SARS pandemic in 2003, Reid praised President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"Under President Chen's strong leadership, Taiwan has remained true to its democratic value and has continued to be a model for its neighbors in the region," he said on the Senate floor. "The WHO's refusal to grant membership or even observer status to Taiwan has ... placed the health of all 23 million Taiwanese in jeopardy."

Last year, as Bush was en route to the APEC summit in South Korea, Reid, in a letter, called Bush's China policies "ad hoc, inconsistent and essentially aimless," adding that "China's non-democratic government has taken actions and pursued policies that understandably stoke concerns and fears in America."

Taiwan is expected to fare less well in the Foreign Relations Committee, where Democratic Senator Joseph Biden will take over the chairmanship. Biden is known for a pro-China stance and for not particularly liking Taiwan.

Although Biden has said in the past that he is one of the remaining congressman who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979, and still agreed with that decision, his backing for Taiwan is limited.

While he has said that he supports the TRA policy that "retain[s] the right to use force to defend Tai-wan," he is a supporter of the Clintonian policy of "strategic ambiguity," which withholds a firm commitment to defend Taiwan militarily, and was sharply critical of President Bush's statement in a television interview in 2001 that he would do "whatever it took" to help defend Taiwan if China launched a military attack.

He also berated UN Ambassador John Bolton during earlier hearings on Bolton's nomination to a senior State Department post in 2001 for Bolton's earlier private writings in support of Taiwanese independence and membership in the UN.

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