Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Ports deal is dying as UAE Company agrees to divest itself of American holdings

The UAE company that was attempting take over management of 22 U.S. ports announced today that it will divest itself of all American interests.Dubai Port Company to Divest Itself of American Holdings

This appears to be a face saving device to head off a major confrontation between Congress and President Bush over the controversial deal.

The announcement came just hours after Republican leaders from the House and Senate met with President Bush to tell him Congress appeared ready to block the deal, and was given by Senator John Warner (r-VA) who has been attempting to broker a compromise between Congress and the president.

The assessment by influential congressmen came at a private meeting at the White House, according to Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) It came only one day after lawmakers took their first formal steps toward killing Dubai Ports World's deal to manage American ports, as reported here.

Bush has repeatedly said he would veto any attempts to crush the deal. But over 70% of Americans have reacted viscerally to the proposd deal, giving Congress momentum towards a confrontation with the White House.

"We want to protect the American people," said House Speaker Sen. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill). "We've been doing it the last four and a half years. We fought a war in Iraq, fought a war in Afghanistan, stood up to the Homeland Security Department. We will continue to do that. We will maybe have our differences, but we think we're going to continue to" oppose the Dubal deal," he said this morning.

The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday tacked on a measure to block the deal to funding for Katrina relief and a war-funding bill. The vote on the bill was 62-2. A full House vote on the bill is expected to pass overwhelmingly next week if it comes to a vote.

The ports deal split conservatives from the Bush administration on the president's own key issue -- national security.

Bush appears to still be hanging onto his original stance on this like a dog on a well loved bone. At the same time the GOP leadership was meeting with Bush, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan repeated Bush's vow to veto any legislation that interferes with the deal.

That kind of cluelessness and indeed, arrogance has only made things worse. And many conservatives are livid at the White House handing a gift to the Democrats on anissue that many of them are rightfully perceived to be weak on.

This looks to be headed in one of two directions -- a veto confrontation between the president and Congress or a decision by Dubai Ports World to abandon its takeover plans.

Either way, this appears to be a done deal. And rightfully so.

Whatever were you thinking, Mr. President?

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