WASHINGTON (Jun. 19)
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 15-9 yesterday to consider a new trade reform bill in closed session from which all persons would be excluded except committee staff and administration representatives. The surprise move is believed to have serious implications for the Mills-Vanik bill which conditions most favored nation status for the Soviet Union on the easing of obstacles to emigration from Russia.
Seven sponsors of the Mills-Vanik measure voted along with eight non-sponsors in favor of closed sessions. All nine Congressmen opposed, including Rep. Vanik, are sponsors of the legislation. It was not immediately known how committee chairman Wilbur Mills (D.Ark.) voted.
The vote to deal with the sensitive trade reform legislation without scrutiny by the press and public was seen by some observers as a possible indication that support for the Mills-Vanik bill may be wavering. At last count the bill was sponsored by 280 out of 435 House members, more than sufficient for its passage.
It was pointed out by sources here, however. that sensitive factors other than the Mills-Vanik measure are involved in the trade reform legislation. The bill; introduced by Rep. James A. Burke (D.Mass.), calls for stronger tariffs and import quotas as opposed to the Nixon Administration’s trade reform act that gives the President a free hand in determining tariffs and import quotas. The House measure is expected to come to the floor for a vote on Aug. 3, just before Congress adjourns for summer recess.