WASHINGTON (Dec. 10)
The House of Representatives opened its long awaited debate today on the Trade Reform Act and its provision affecting Soviet emigration. The discussion was expected to be completed late this afternoon with moves for amendments and a final vote tomorrow.
A close vote on the final passage was presaged when the House decided by only 231-150 to hold the debate at all. A large number of the members affirming the decision on debate indicated they were agreeing to hold that discussion but were opposed to granting more discretionary authority to the President in any field. This factor was seen as militating in the end against the emigration clause in the bill.
The debate had been delayed since Oct. 18 at President Nixon’s request in order to avoid offending the Soviet government at a time when its cooperation was regarded as essential by the Administration to bring about a Middle East peace. However, the President reversed himself last week and urged quick approval because of problems arising with America’s major trading partners.
Rep. Al Ullman (D.Ore.) acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, opened the debate by calling for passage of the bill as it stands, including a denial of most favored nation treatment for the Soviet Union unless it eases its emigration restrictions.
He asked, however, that any move to ban credits to the Soviet Union on the same basis should be defeated. The Soviet government is far more anxious to receive the credits than the MFN status. The motion to ban credits is to be presented tomorrow by Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D.Ohio). Of the first seven speakers in the debate today the only opponent was Rep. James A. Burke (D.Mass.) who contended the measure would bring about additional setbacks in U.S. employment.