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Embarrassing Legislative Setback for the Bush Administration

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November 15th, 2006

US house defeats Bush’s bill on Vietnam trade, the house of representatives defeated a measure late on Monday that the President had sought to normalise trade relations with Vietnam, four days before he was scheduled to leave for his first visit to that country.The legislation embodies approval by congress of what is known as permanent normal trade relations with Vietnam, which would make it easier for that country to join the World Trade Organization and would allow American companies to share in the benefits of the open market.

The legislation received a majority vote but fell short of the twothirds needed for passage under special rules that speeded its consideration in the house. The vote came on the first day of the lameduck session in which the outgoing house, still controlled by a Republican majority, met to pass crucial bills by the end of this year.The legislation received 228 votes in favour and 161 against, but it needed 32 more votes to pass on Monday. House Republican leaders said they would bring the legislation back in the next couple of days under normal procedures, which require only a majority, or 218 votes, for passage. Though perhaps symbolic, the defeat in the house was an embarrassment not only for Bush, but also for the departing Republican leaders, who had earlier in the day expressed confidence that they had the two-thirds needed for the bill to pass in the house.

Republican leaders expect the bill to pass the senate later this week, despite the misgivings from some lawmakers.The White House still hopes for the bills approval in the next couple of days so that Bush can cite its passage as a milestone in relations with Vietnam while attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Hanoi.The loss, however temporary, was also a portent that trade bills could face tougher odds in the lame-duck session and in January, when Democrats take control of both the house and senate. Many Democrats who won election last week pledged to try to block trade bills they viewed as threatening American jobs.

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