In a rare early-morning session yesterday, the Senate approved H.J.Res.41, which nullified a Dodd-Frank provision designed to prevent corruption in oil, gas and mining companies via reporting requirements on payments made to foreign governments for extraction rights.
This law made it more difficult for Big Oil in particular to make massive payments to other countries for drilling rights — often in the form of bribes — and was lobbied against personally by newly-confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his time as CEO of ExxonMobil.
“We cannot stand by while the interests of a few powerful oil companies trump the safety and values of our country,” Corinna Gilfillan, head of the U.S. office at Global Witness, said in a statement. “We need this law to protect investors, developing countries, and our own national security interests.”
The bill passed on a strict party-line vote 52-47 (Democratic Senator Ed Markey was absent) after being approved in the House of Representatives 235-187 on Wednesday.
As part of Donald Trump’s move to gut a wide swath of regulations, the bill moved quickly, having only been introduced in the House on Monday, passing there on Wednesday and being approved by the Senate Friday.
While critics of the Dodd-Frank provision say it adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that doesn’t apply to their foreign competitors, former Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who proposed the amendment in 2012, said it was a necessary check on corruption.
“The Cardin-Lugar Amendment puts transparency — the key to citizens’ ability to hold their government to account — ahead of corruption,” said Lugar. “To do otherwise is a losing proposition for the United States and company shareholders.”
But that was the way yesterday’s Republican viewed the world.
Of course, the Trump White House will be ecstatic.
“The rule would impose unreasonable compliance costs on American energy companies that are not justified by quantifiable benefits,” said an earlier Trump administration statement. “Moreover, American businesses could face a competitive disadvantage in cases where their foreign competitors are not subject to similar rules.”