After swapping some language and dropping an amendment, the Senate (and House) passed the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (HR3127) this week. The bill was originally passed by the House in April but stalled in the Senate when the dropped, which would have protected States from lawsuits if they divested from companies who do business with Sudan, became a sticking point.
The National Foreign Trade Council, a business organization with more than 300 member companies, lobbied against the provision because it has recently sued the state of Illinois, charging that Illinois’ divestment law is unconstitutional. The trade group’s president, William Reinsch, said the provision would have interfered with the organization’s case against Illinois, although he also said the group would have opposed divestment in the absence of an existing court battle.
“The president of the United States gets to deal with foreign policy, and the governor of Illinois does not,” said Reinsch, who worked with congressional and executive authorities to have the provision stripped from the bill.
How a state or individual’s right to divest from a particular company falls under the umbrella of “foreign policy” is murky at best, and at least one Congresswoman is determined to patch the gap. Rep. Barbara Lee (Oakland) stated that the debate concerning the bills interference in pending court cases was a smokescreen.
“Concern about the constitutionality of state divestment campaigns is just a smokescreen to cover for efforts by the financial services industry to quietly kill a divestment movement it sees as an inconvenience,” said Lee, who introduced new legislation late last week to make another attempt at providing divestment protection for states.
The bill in question is H.R. 6140 (Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2006). Whether of not this bill makes it out of the House, the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act is a long-awaited first step in confronting the ongoing genocide in the Republic of Sudan.