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Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee - Negative Implications of the President's Signing Statement on the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee - Negative Implications of the President's Signing Statement on the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act

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REP. MELVIN WATT (D-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I won't take four or five minutes but I do think it's important to make two points. First point is that I was not here in Congress during the lead up to the actions that were taken with respect to South Africa but in many respects from what I've read about those steps leading to it White House's Presidents of the United States were just as reluctant to take any kind of affirmative positive step until they were basically forced to do so. This strikes me as yet another example of that in which if this works out well -- which really there's no good method to make it work out well retrospectively, but it might work out well prospectively, I suspect this President will be bragging about all of the good things that it did to end the genocide in Darfur including this legislation that we passed.

The difference there I think was that signing statements were not the order of the day, and as the Chairman has noted, we have found in the Judiciary Committee that this President has just -- in a -- in a virtual dictatorial fashion decided that he can ignore the laws that Congress passes, even those that he signs into law, by lighting the signing statements that have the effect of watering them down or minimizing the impact of them. So this is not new, but it's new in the sense that signing statements have become such a precedent for this Administration being used in -- in so many different areas that it's unbelievable.

The second point is this is a particular disappointment because a number of us work with our local states to try to get them to pass divestment legislation and many of them had reluctances based on the uncertainty of the law and various and sundry other concerns that they were expressing. But they passed those laws anyway. And to the extent that the signing statement that the President has attached to this bill, muddies the water about whether states have the authority and what authority they have. It basically sets us back substantially, I think, in some of those states that were kind of concerned about what the standards were and concerned about what they could do at the state level not only with their government funds but with pension plans and other funds that were potentially being divested or were being divested -- invested in Darfur and Sudan.

So this is a real concern and I join the Chair in expressing that concern, and I'm glad that we're having the hearing about it to try to minimize it as much as we can. I'll yield back to the --

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