Restoring American Finacial Stability Act of 2010

Floor Speech

Date: May 17, 2010
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I am happy to come to the Senate floor and join in support of the Cardin-Lugar amendment. I am an original cosponsor along with Senators Feingold, Whitehouse, and others. It is very straightforward, as Senator Lugar explained, and Senator Cardin before him.

It would require companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange to disclose in their SEC filings extractive payments made to governments for oil, gas, and mining. This encourages greater corporate transparency, particularly in terms of those operating in countries where corruption and violence are rampant.

I would also say there is a complementary amendment, which I hope will be considered at the same time because it is in that same vein. It is amendment No. 3997, offered by Senators Brownback, Feingold, and myself, and it basically would make the same requirement related to extractive minerals.

Mr. President, I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo 5 years ago with Senator Brownback. We visited Goma, and I returned to that location just a few months ago with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. On those two visits I saw a situation in Goma which is almost impossible to describe. Imagine one of the poorest places on Earth, where people literally are starving to death, where they are facing the scourge of disease, where malaria and AIDS cuts short the lives of far too many, where there are thousands who are bunched into these just desolate and desperate refugee camps, and then imagine nearby an active volcano. That is the situation in Goma.

If you think that is the combination that would be the worst on Earth, there is more. Superimpose on this misfortune an ongoing war and unrest that has been part of this section of Africa at least since the time of the Rwandan genocide--that long--more than 16 years ago. Unspeakable crimes are being committed, particularly against women in this region, and one of the major reasons is this turns out to be one of the most powerful sections of Africa. You will find Dian Fossey's gorillas, and you will find some of the richest stores of virgin timber and extractive minerals in the world. The fighting goes on every single day, and these poor people are caught in the crossfire of this terrible conflict. Armed militias--some left over from the genocide in Rwanda--continue to operate in the region, terrorizing citizens and inflicting horrific brutality. The United Nations has a 20,000-member peacekeeping force, known as MONUC, but it isn't enough.

What is really behind this ongoing violence? Money. Some of it is a result of a weak Congolese state, and some of the problem is due to the large number of criminals who have invaded this nation. But what helps fund the continued violence is an illicit minerals trade that enriches and helps arm those who continue this mayhem.

Most people probably don't realize the products we use every day--from automobiles to cell phones--may use one of these minerals from this area of conflict and that there is a possibility it was mined from an area of great violence.

We can't begin to solve the problems of eastern Congo without addressing where the armed groups are receiving their funding, mainly from the mining of a number of key conflict minerals. We, as a nation of consumers as well as industry, have a responsibility to ensure that our economic activity does not support such violence.

That is why I join with Senators Brownback and Feingold to support the Congo conflict minerals amendment, which is now pending on this bill. It is a requirement that if a company registered in the United States uses any of a small list of key minerals from the Congo--minerals known to be involved in the conflict areas--then such usage must be disclosed in that company's SEC disclosure. Such companies can also include additional information to indicate the steps they have taken to ensure their minerals were mined and paid for legitimately and legally.

The requirement would sunset in 5 years unless the Secretary of State certifies that the violence continues to receive support from the mineral trade. It is a reasonable step to shed some light on this literally life-and-death issue, and it encourages companies using these minerals to source them responsibly.

I thank Senators Dodd and Shelby for their consideration of this amendment. I hope, like the Cardin-Lugar amendment, there will be a chance Ðfor this Brownback-Feingold-Durbin amendment to be considered before this bill is completed.