Mr. President, for the first time in more than a decade, the Republican Party controls the house, the Senate and the White House, and this week they are starting to roll out their legislative agenda.
So now that they have complete control of the agenda, what do the Republicans have in store? Something to bump up wages for working families or something to create more jobs, something to tackle the student debt crisis, maybe something to deal with all the jobs that get shipped overseas?
Nope. One of the Republican Party’s first orders of business is a giveaway to ExxonMobil that will help corrupt and repressive foreign regimes and help it to funnel money to terrorists around the world.
Here's the problem. Big corporations like Exxon and other oil and gas mining companies often pay millions of dollars to foreign governments to access natural resources located in these countries, and many of these foreign regimes are corrupt. And Exxon’s massive payouts regularly end up in the pockets of government officials rather than in the hands of the people. These corrupt officials get filthy rich while their citizens face punishing poverty and dangerous working conditions. Where still some of these undisclosed payments can end up financing terrorists.
Just over six years ago, Congress passed a bipartisan provision to help tackle this problem, with strong support of Senator Dick Lugar, the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congress required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments that they make to extract natural resources. Republicans and Democrats agree that shining a light on these payments would help combat corruption and terrorism around the globe and would help citizens in some of the very poorest nations in the world hold their own governments accountable.
Disclosing these foreign payments also helps investors right here in the United States so that they can make more informed investment decisions. Some investors may want to stay away from companies that could face expensive lawsuits for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other anticorruption laws. Other investors quite frankly may just prefer not to invest in companies that could be helping prop up corrupt foreign governments or indirectly financing terrorism.
So Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to write up the rule, and the S.E.C. spent years soliciting input from investors from human rights advocates, from anticorruption experts and from oil, gas and mining companies. The agency ultimately issued a ruling last year, and it worked.
The rule gained the support of faith groups, of human rights groups, of development organizations, of anticorruption advocates all around the world. The rule also earned the support of investors who collectively controlled more than $10 trillion in assets. And we should really be proud. It set an international standard with the European Union, Canada, and other countries adopting similar standards for companies in their own countries.
But it didn't go down well with everyone. A handful of powerful oil and gas companies have been after this requirement from the start, and Exxon has been leading the pack on this. In fact, Rex Tillerson, the C.E.Os. of Exxon at the time, personally lobbied against the requirement back in 2010.
His reason -- what was his objection? The foreign payments rule would undermine Exxon’s ability to do business in Russia. Listen to that again. If Exxon has to tell the world about the millions of dollars it hands over to the Russian government, Exxon wouldn't be able to do as much business in Russia.
So now the Republican Congress wants to rush out to help poor Exxon so they can keep the secret money flowing to these Russian officials. This Exxon giveaway shows just how bankrupt the Republican agenda is. They don't have any ideas for helping working families. It's just one corporate giveaway after another, making their big business donors happy and keeping the campaign contributions flowing for the next election.
But the economic lives of our working families, our moral leadership in the world, the safety of our financial system and the water we drink and the air we breathe, all of those are just afterthoughts to the corporate wish list.
If you are a corrupt foreign dictator, Republicans rolling back the rules is great for you. If you were an oil company executive, Republicans rolling back the rules is great for you. But if you are anyone else, you should be outraged that the Republican Congress is so willing to throw you under the bus to please these groups.
I urge all of my colleagues to vote against this resolution.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield.