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Congresswoman Waters calls on the President to Enforce The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act

July 30, 2009
Press Release

Today, during a hearing held by the Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) expressed her concern regarding President Bush's decision to issue a signing statement to accompany Public Law 110-174, the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act.  The Congresswoman made the following statement:

I strongly supported the passage of Public Law 110-174, the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, and I am deeply concerned by the President's decision to issue a signing statement which may indicate that he does not intend to enforce fully this important law.

The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act authorizes states and local governments to adopt measures to divest public assets from companies involved in certain targeted business sectors in Sudan.  It is a concrete proposal to increase sanctions on the government of Sudan and on corporations that continue to do business with this genocidal regime.  As the bill proceeded through the legislative process, Congress made an effort to address concerns raised by the Administration.  The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act was then passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate in December and sent to the President's desk.

The President issued a signing statement on December 31, 2007, when he signed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act into law.  According to this signing statement,

"This Act purports to authorize State and local governments to divest from companies doing business in named sectors in Sudan and thus risks being interpreted as insulating from Federal oversight State and local divestment actions that could interfere with implementation of national foreign policy.  However, as the Constitution vests the exclusive authority to conduct foreign relations with the Federal Government, the executive branch shall construe and enforce this legislation in a manner that does not conflict with that authority."

This signing statement is one of over 150 signing statements issued by President Bush during the seven years that he has served as our nation's President.  Taken together, these signing statements suggest that the President is determined to sign bills passed by Congress into law, and then implement the provisions of his choice while ignoring provisions with which he may disagree.

The Constitution does not give the President the authority to sign bills into law and then pick and choose provisions to implement and provisions to ignore.  Instead, when Congress passes a bill and sends it to the President's desk, the Constitution gives the President a choice:  he can sign the bill into law or he can veto it and send it back to Congress with an explanation of his objections.

The President's decision to issue a signing statement regarding the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act is especially troubling. 

This bill is a response to the genocide that is being carried out by the government of Sudan against the people of Darfur.  Sudanese military forces and armed militias have bombed villages, raped and murdered civilians, and destroyed homes, crops and water supplies.  An estimated 450,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003, and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced.

Early in 2006, I visited the Darfur region with my good friend from California, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and I was deeply disturbed by what I saw.  As far as the eyes could see, there were crowds of displaced people who had been driven from their homes, living literally on the ground with nothing but little tarps to cover them.  That was two years ago, and yet this genocide has been allowed to continue.

Over three years ago, the Bush Administration declared that the government of Sudan was responsible for genocide in Darfur.  Unfortunately, since that declaration, the Administration's actions have not matched its rhetoric.

I call on the President to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities and enforce the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, which he signed into law with his own hand.  And I call on the President to take immediate and decisive action to stop this genocide!