House Financial Services Committee Overwhelmingly Passes Iran Divestment Bill
The House Financial Services Committee today overwhelmingly passed H.R. 2347, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007, which will empower Americans to apply economic pressure on the Iranian regime. The federal government will establish a list of entities that invest in Iran and allow for divestment. As Iran continues to threaten regional stability and international security by pursuing a nuclear program, rattling sabers at its neighbors - especially Israel - and supporting terrorist groups funded by its energy sector, this bill will protect investors and state and local governments that choose not to invest in companies that support Iran's oil and gas industry. The bill was introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Senator Barack Obama has introduced a similar bill in the U.S. Senate.
"Time and again in recent history, divestment has been used to persuade a balky political regime that its policies are out of synch with world opinion," said Lantos, who also is the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. "The Apartheid system of South Africa crumbled under the pressure of international disapproval, as expressed in the successful divestment campaign. Divestment is now slowly sending a message today to China about its involvement with the Sudanese regime as long as the genocide continues in Darfur. This new legislation puts the power of the purse to use so that Tehran might be deterred from its headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons."
"One of the advantages of this approach is that it makes it very clear that the actions taken under this bill will be actions taken by the American people: by elected state governments, by elected state officials, and by individuals acting on their own convictions, with their own money," said Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank. "It also makes a very important political point. It gives Americans the ability to speak out about their understandable revulsion to the actions of the Iranian government."
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said, "I was proud to cosponsor this bill and to work with Chairman Frank on its passage through the Financial Services Committee. My amendment will make it clear that state and local divestment efforts targeting Iran are fully authorized, whether they focus on corporations investing in Iran's oil sector or target Iran more broadly. This will insulate Missouri and others from possible law suits, and encourage California, Ohio and many other states to move forward."
"I am grateful the Financial Services Committee acted so quickly to pass this legislation. I believe Americans want choice in divesting from companies that support a regime in Iran that sponsors terrorism and is an avowed enemy of American interests. Because I believe military action against Iran, while not off the table, must be an absolute last resort, it is critical our government utilize the tools at our disposal including economic sanctions and a divestment campaign to deter the threat Iran poses to global security," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), the lead Republican co-sponsor of the bill, and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. "It is also appropriate for us to impose pressure on the other nations of the world who prop up the Iranian government and the extremists at its helm by investing heavily in that nation."
"Iran poses a grave and growing threat to both the United States and the Middle East, and in order to pressure Iran into being a more responsible regime, the United States and the international community must exhaust every economic, diplomatic and political tool available. This is why I'm proud to join Chairman Frank in introducing legislation that would serve as our first line of defense in holding Iran accountable for the decisions it is making on the international stage," said Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL), a co-sponsor of the bill.
The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007 will:
* Require the U.S. government to publish a list every six months of those companies that have an investment of more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector. This comprehensive list will provide investors with the knowledge to make informed investment decisions as well as a powerful disincentive for foreign companies to engage with Iran.
* Authorize state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and other funds under their control from any company on the list.
* Provide a safe harbor to fund managers, managers of mutual funds and corporate pension funds who divest from companies on this list from actions by shareholders.
* Establishes a Sense of the Congress that urges the Thrift Savings Plan to offer a terror-free investment option for government workers.