The New York Times April
Republicans Try to Delay Vote on Taiwan Security Bill
JOSEPH KAHN with ERIK ECKHOLM
April 27 -- Some Senate Republicans are pushing to postpone
consideration of a bill that would upgrade United States
defense ties with Taiwan, arguing that it makes no sense
to pass it at a time when Taiwan's government is in transition
and China has acted with relative restraint toward its neighbor.
bill, known as the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, has
languished in the Senate since passing the House by an overwhelming
margin earlier this year. Some senators who favor the bill
fear that it might not have enough support to overcome legislative
maneuvers that would block it. They also say that Taiwanese
officials prefer to delay any action on the bill until after
the island's new government takes power in late May.
bill remains in limbo, that could clear the way for a Congressional
vote on whether to grant China permanent normal trade relations,
which President Clinton has called his top remaining legislative
priority. The Clinton administration strongly opposes the
Taiwan security bill. Administration officials have said
they are worried that senators might try to link the trade
measure to the Taiwan bill or try to pass both at the same
time, a step they say would damage relations with China
at a sensitive time.
president-elect, Chen Shui-bian, whose party until recently
called for the island to seek independence, signaled that
he does not want the Senate to take action on the bill immediately,
according to Senator Frank H. Murkowski, an Alaska Republican
who met with Mr. Chen in Taipei last week. Mr. Murkowski,
who said he had been inclined to support the security bill,
said Mr. Chen urged that the Senate delay consideration
of the bill at least until after he takes office on May
from the expected reaction from China, they would prefer
to have the inauguration done before any action is taken
on T.S.E.A.," Mr. Murkowski said, using the abbreviation
for the security enhancement act. "They were unequivocal
in saying that they don't need this right now."
fate of the bill is in the hands of the Senate majority
leader, Trent Lott, who has put the bill on the Senate calendar
but has not scheduled a vote. A spokesman for Mr. Lott said
the majority leader had taken Mr. Murkowski's interpretation
of Mr. Chen's views into consideration, and said that was
"one of several factors" that would determine
if and when a vote takes place.
aides said the Taiwan security bill still had strong support
among Republican senators and could come up for a vote at
any time, especially if China took precipitous action against
Taiwan. Mr. Lott has remained coy about his intentions,
suggesting that he could introduce the bill if that seemed
politically advantageous, the aides said.
bill is thought to have majority support in the Senate,
but possibly not enough backing to overcome procedural hurdles
or a threatened veto by President Clinton. Senator Max Baucus,
a Montana Democrat who has argued that the bill would unnecessarily
hurt relations with China, has put a "hold" on
the measure, a maneuver that under Senate rules requires
60 votes to remove.
officials described Mr. Chen's position differently than
did Mr. Murkowski. These officials, including a senior aide
to Mr. Chen who attended the meeting between the senator
and Taiwan's president-elect, said it was Mr. Murkowski
who raised the prospect of postponing the vote on the security
bill, not Mr. Chen, although he confirmed that Mr. Chen
did not raise any objections to the idea.