House Passes Iran and Darfur Divestment Bills
Washington, DC - Disregarding opposition from both the Secretaries of State and Treasury, the U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed two bills designed to enable Americans through their investment decisions and through their state and local governments to voice their opposition to the internationally condemned practices of the Sudanese and Iranian governments. H.R. 2347, The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, introduced by Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA), passed by a vote of 408 to 6; and H.R. 180, the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), passed by a vote of 417 to 1.
Both bills will establish a federal list of companies that have direct investments in Iran's energy sector or that do business in certain sectors of the Sudanese economy, respectively, and remove specific legal barriers to enable mutual fund and corporate pension fund managers to cut ties with these listed companies if they choose to do so. The bills also provide federal authority for state and local governments that choose to divest their public pension funds from those companies whose financial operations either help support the genocidal practices of the Khartoum regime or enable the Iranian government to obtain nuclear weapons. H.R. 180 would also prohibit U.S. Government procurement contracts with companies on the federal list and authorize the prohibition of these types of contracts at the state and local level as well.
"I am disappointed by the Bush Administration's opposition to both of these bills, and I am pleased that the House has passed them with well above the number of votes that would be necessary to override any vetoes. The Administration's objection to the Congressional approach to these two crises would be more persuasive if we had any evidence that their approach, unaided, was successful," said Chairman Frank.
"America is a loving nation, and allowing our financial markets to be utilized by evil regimes that promote terrorism or conduct religious and racial genocide is inconsistent with our values and principles," stated Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL).
"I am proud of our bipartisan efforts to increase the financial pressure on Khartoum to end the genocide in Darfur, and I want the President to explain why he believes that Americans should not take steps to make sure that our tax dollars and our pension funds are not supporting genocide," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the sponsor of H.R. 180.
"We must use every economic and political tool at our disposal to convince Khartoum and Tehran that they cannot act with impunity against universal values of human rights and the interests of global security," said Rep. Tom Lantos, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. "These two pieces of legislation sharpen those tools. United States can exercise considerable leadership through pressure by financial means both to bring the crisis in Darfur to an end, and to avoid a nuclear weapons crisis with Iran."
"It is time to stop funding the war machine in Sudan," said Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Evidence of mass slaughter, aerial bombardments, and forced displacements targeted against the African tribes in Darfur require us to take this action. We need to send a clear message to Khartoum that we are not fooled by their half measures and delay tactics and that we are serious about ending this conflict, to do so, we must speak in a language that they will surely understand - the language of economic interests."
Rep. Brad Sherman, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, added, "In order to change the policies of the worst regimes, we have to change the policies of multilateral corporations. Divestment is a key element in our strategy to put diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime in Tehran until is has given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and curtails its support for terror."
"When Americans invest their hard-earned dollars, they want to know those dollars are not going to prop up the regime in Tehran, a sponsor of terrorism and an avowed enemy of American interests, or support the government in Sudan that continues the abhorrent crimes committed against the Darfurian people. Divestment is a very serious step for our government to take against a nation, but no American should have to worry that his or her investments or pension money was earned in support of genocide or terrorism," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Ranking Member on the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.