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Support for S. 1310 (Organization of American States Legislative Engagement Act of

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 21, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAUL. Madam Speaker, I want to express my support for the Organization of American States Legislative Engagement Act.

The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the nations of the Western Hemisphere to promote democracy, human rights, security, and economic development.

This bill directs the Department of State to develop a strategy to support efforts in the OAS to strengthen critical anti-corruption efforts and promote human rights.

It also requires a report detailing the organization's progress toward advancing human rights, combating impunity, and supporting the participation of democratically elected legislators in OAS activities.

Finally, this bill encourages democratically elected legislators from member states to discuss the most important issues facing the region-- including defending human rights, promoting democracy, and supporting anti-corruption efforts.

As co-chair of the US-Mexico Interparliamentary Group, I recognize the important role that legislators can play in advancing shared foreign policy interests. However, the United States must take all necessary measures to ensure that any interparliamentary forum created under this legislation provides a platform for substantive discourse to address serious issues impacting the region, including countering threats to democracy and human rights, transnational crime, impunity, and systemic corruption in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The United States must also make all efforts to ensure that interparliamentary forums are not coopted by actors who aim to undermine U.S. policy interests in the region by promoting socialism and embracing malign actors like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This legislation includes critical language ensuring that only democratically elected legislators participate in any newly-created forum. A ``democratically elected legislator'' under this legislation should be strictly defined as an individual who was elected as a result of periodic, free and fair elections. Further, any legislator who is known to be convicted for or engaged in corruption or transnational criminal activities, including trafficking of people, goods, or illicit narcotics, moneylaundering, terrorist financing, acts of terrorism, campaign finance violations, bribery, extortion, human rights violations, or undermining democracy, should be barred from participation.

The U.S. must also work with the OAS to ensure that any forum or action taken under this legislation is feasible and cost effective, keeping in mind the ongoing budgetary constraints of the OAS and the importance of advancing the objectives outlined under the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013, including the implementation of a results-based budgeting process in order to strategically prioritize, and where appropriate, reduce current and future mandates.

The State Department should also maintain communication with the Committee on Foreign Relations in the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives through regular briefings on the progress of any forum that is created under Section 4 of this legislation and its implementation.

With the Western Hemisphere facing serious threats from authoritarian regimes and malign actors, it has never been more important for the U.S. and our partners to promote values of freedom in the region.

I commend Senator Cardin and Senator Wicker for their leadership on this issue, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

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