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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington DC

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, it has been 2 years since Congress passed legislation that provided for transparency in the mineral industry. It was a provision that was included in the Dodd-Frank bill. It was included as an amendment on which Senator Lugar and I worked. I wish to thank Senator Lugar for his incredible leadership on this issue--transparency--as well as so many other issues that affect the security of not only America but global security.

The provision is something we worked on to provide transparency in developing countries. It provided a visible sign of U.S. leadership, that we are going to do everything we can to promote good governance around the world; to demonstrate that we understand that for the stability of America, we need countries that have good governance.

The United States spends more money than any other country in the world on our national security budget. In fact, we spend more than most of the other countries combined spend on national defense. We have the ability to use our military for our national defense, but it is much better if we can develop stable countries around the world. The way to develop stable countries is to help them build a stable economy, to help them build wealth, and to help them have good governance.

It is impossible to see the type of progress we want in the developing countries unless they have good governance. I might say that the more we can help in this regard, the more we promote good governance and economic growth, the better off we will be. Our direct security burdens will be reduced, and we will have new markets, which will create economic opportunities for America.

As the Presiding Officer knows, this is the guiding principle of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We used the Helsinki Commission as our implementing arm. The Helsinki Accords that were signed in 1975 between Europe--all of the countries of Europe--the United States, and Canada recognized that it was in our national security interests to support stable countries that respect human rights and have good governance.

This is the reason the Cardin-Lugar amendment was so important in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation. Let me explain what it does. It requires mineral companies to list the payments they make to extract the minerals they take out of a country. Whether we are talking about gas or oil, whether it is diamonds or copper--the companies need to divulge their individual payments to foreign countries in their reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.

We did that for many reasons.

One reason, quite frankly, is that although many countries in the world have vast sums of mineral wealth, these are some of the poorest countries in the world. We call it the ``resource curse'' because the natural resource wealth of the country isn't just being denied to the people for their economic growth, it is being used to fuel corruption within their own country. So one of the reasons for the provision we incorporated in the Dodd-Frank bill was to provide transparency so that the people of the country, along with the international community, will know exactly where payments are being made for the extraction of mineral wealth in a country.

Senator Lugar and I also thought that such information would be important for U.S. investors, too. If someone is going to invest in a mineral company, he or she has a right to know where that company is signing contracts and paying money for access to the natural resource(s).

It is also important for U.S. interests. We need stable mineral reserves. As the Presiding Officer knows, we have gone to war over the need for oil. We need stable markets so that we do not jeopardize our own economic progress.

So the Cardin-Lugar provision gives us a chance to follow the money, as the saying goes, in a particular country.

For all of these reasons, Mr. President, we passed a provision as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation that requires every company that is involved in extracting minerals to list those payments specifically by project in their SEC filings.

It was pretty clear as to what needed to be done. We gave the authority to the SEC to issue the necessary regulations. Well, we have been waiting 2 years for these regulations--2 years. We are now well beyond the time limit that was spelled out in the legislation for the SEC to issue its regulations. Yet the SEC still hasn't issued final regulations.

I have read the statute over and over again. I helped write the statute. Senator Lugar has read the statute. We do not understand the difficulty. It was not a complicated provision. It said exactly what the companies have to do. So we are somewhat puzzled why it has taken this length of time for the SEC to issue its final regulations. In the meantime, we are being denied the benefit of this law. We are being denied the opportunity to protect our investors. We are being denied the opportunity to follow the money, to help promote good governance abroad. All that has been delayed as a result of the SEC's failure to issue regulations.

I must say that it also jeopardizes U.S. leadership. Yes, there are other countries interested in following what the United States is doing. We have heard from Europe, and we have heard from Asia. They want to adopt similar laws. They do not know what to pass because they are still waiting for the SEC to act. So the failure to act isn't just affecting our ability; it is also affecting other countries. Collectively, between Asia, Europe, and the United States, we can pretty much cover all of the international extractive companies and therefore have a real, major impact on transparency on this issue.

I might say that one of the criticisms I have heard is about why we have a separate bill. We already have what is known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI. There is an international organization that is voluntary. Countries can join. The United States has participated in the EITI. EITI participants help countries with best practices for developing the governance to deal with how they handle their mineral wealth. EITI is an important program. It is a voluntary program. It works well.

The Cardin-Lugar provision in the Dodd-Frank legislation complement the EITI. The two work together. Between the two, the EITI and our legislation, there's a way that we can really require companies to make the information available in an open way. The EITI gives developing countries the technical assistance they need to manage their mineral wealth in the most effective way for the benefit of their own people, to elevate their wealth and to have a more sustainable economy.

This delay has caused a great deal of concern to many of us. Quite frankly, Oxfam, for example, has filed suit against the SEC for its failure to issue regulations, and I am very sympathetic to that lawsuit.

I wish to inform Senators that we have now been told the SEC will finally issue its regulations on August 22, in just a few weeks. SEC officials have formally responded to the Oxfam lawsuit, saying the agency will issue regulations on August 22. I have received a letter from the SEC indicating the same thing. It is long overdue.

I am looking forward to seeing the regulations from the SEC. I hope the SEC follows the letter and spirit of the legislation. It is up to Congress to pass the laws. SEC needs to implement the laws under direction and guidance from Congress. We have made it clear that we want openness and transparency. I know some oil companies may not like that, but they do not write the laws, we do. It is up to the SEC now to promulgate the regulations that carry out the intent of our law and help us move forward so that the resource wealth of countries in the developing world become a real asset, a real benefit, as they develop sustainable economies and good governance, which helps global stability and helps the global economy.

We will be watching the SEC. I know we will be in recess on the 22nd, but we will be watching the SEC. I hope that Congress and the SEC will be working together and that the United States will continue exercising its leadership, so that we will see other countries follow suit where we really can make a difference in the wealth and growth of countries around the world that for too long have been suffering even though they have enormous mineral wealth.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum


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