Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to block Dubai Ports World's acquisition of management operations at six key U.S. ports. The move in the House came as majority Republicans in the Senate turned back a Democrat-backed effort to force a vote on the issue.
The latest round in the Dubai ports controversy played out Wednesday on both sides of Capitol Hill.
Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to force the Republican Senate leadership to allow a vote on the ports issue.
The Democratic effort, in the form of an amendment to must-pass lobbying reform legislation, brought business in the Senate to a halt.
At a news conference soon after [Democratic] Senator Richard Durbin complained that Republicans are trying to block a vote because of the sensitivity of the issue for the Bush administration:
"The Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate does not want to face a vote on the Dubai ports deal. Not this afternoon, not this evening, not tomorrow, maybe not ever, but they will. They're going to be held accountable to the American people," he said.
Developments in the Senate contrasted with the House of Representatives, where Republicans went ahead with legislation aimed at blocking Dubai Ports World from taking over management of terminals at six U.S. ports.
House Republicans moved even closer to confrontation with President Bush by attaching their bill to crucial legislation being considered by the Appropriations Committee containing money for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republican Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis spoke before the committee voted 62 to 2 in favor of blocking the Dubai ports deal.
"This is a national security issue, this is a national security bill. We want to make sure that the security of our ports is in America's hands. My amendment blocks the deal by prohibiting Dubai Ports World or any entity controlled by DP World from taking control of U.S. port operations," he said.
Congressman Lewis noted that the amendment does not attempt to reform the existing U.S. government approval process involving a special committee on foreign investment, something many lawmakers would like to see happen.
Some opponents as well as supporters of the amendment cautioned that lawmakers have not yet examined the ports issue thoroughly enough to take such an action.
"I think that the Congress itself, if it is going to interpose its judgment in this instance, than we ought to have a regularized process in which it does so over the long haul," said Wisconsin Democrat David Obey.
"I am concerned about what we are doing here today as I think this diverts us from the real issue, which is port security," said Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe.
President Bush has threatened to veto any legislation emerging from Congress that blocks the Dubai ports deal.
The White House said Wednesday the president has not changed his position, adding that the Bush administration continues to talk with members of Congress about possible solutions.
Events in the Senate placed Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist in a difficult position, as he may be unable to move forward with lobbying and other important legislation while Democrats continue to use legislative techniques to force a vote on blocking the Dubai ports deal.