Battle continues as more politicians fight U.A.E. port control plan

| Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The fight about a Middle Eastern company controlling six major U.S. ports was taken to the executive level on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as President Bush vowed to veto any measure Congress might pass to try and stop the deal from going through.

The furor erupted early in the week of Feb. 12 when it was announced that a company owned by the country of United Arab Emirates – Dubai Ports World – had been cleared to acquire the British firm Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

The deal would give Dubai Ports World control over the management of the ports of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans.

Since then, both Republicans and Democrats have blasted the deal and talked about possible legislation that would stop it from happening.

The Associated Press reported that Bush, who has yet to veto a bill, defended the deal as the administration disclosed some of the requirements Dubai Ports World would have to meet.

For example, the company would be required to participate in U.S. security programs designed to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials. The AP reported that about 33 other port companies participate in these programs voluntarily.

But that hasn’t been enough to satisfy the deal’s harshest critics. Rep. Pete King, R-NY, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told The AP that Bush’s veto threat would not deter any attempts at legislation.

“I will fight harder than ever for this legislation,” he said. “And if it is vetoed, I will fight as hard as I can to override it.”

The AP reported that King and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, are planning to introduce emergency legislation aimed at suspending the deal.

The legislation has gotten support from both sides of the political fence. Sens. Bob Menéndez, D-NJ, and Hillary Clinton, D-NY, have supported the idea of a bill, as have Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL.

According to the Congressional Quarterly, the Bush administration officials will brief a "friendly Senate committee” on the deal in a public session Thursday, Feb. 23.

And Teamster’s Union president James Hoffa is calling on Congress to ignore Bush’s veto threat and block the port deal. In a press release, Hoffa said, “This is yet another example of President Bush’s corporate agenda gone wild.”

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