Using the little-known Congressional Review Act, the House GOP voted on Wednesday to kill an Obama-era regulation that would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments that they made to foreign governments, including taxes and royalties.
Big Oil had quite a day in Washington yesterday. Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, was sworn in as the new Secretary of State, despite the fact that he has literally no experience in official diplomacy or foreign policy. The final vote was 56 to 43, with literally every Republican in the Senate supporting the nomination -- including those who scoffed initially after Donald Trump announced Tillerson's nomination last year.Just a few hours before the vote, Politico published an interesting piece about Tillerson personally having lobbied Congress during the Wall Street reform effort, urging lawmakers to reject a provision that "required drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments."Tillerson reportedly argued at the time that forcing oil companies to disclose such payments "would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry."That, of course, was in 2010, when there were sizable Democratic majorities in both chamber of Congress, and when the ExxonMobil CEO's pleas were largely ignored. The Wall Street reform legislation passed anyway, the provision was included in the bill, and some other countries soon after followed our lead and approved similar disclosure requirements for oil companies.Vox noted yesterday what's become of this provision in the law.
The roll call on the vote is online here. Note that 98% of House Republicans voted to kill the disclosure requirement, while 98% of House Democrats voted to keep the requirement in place.In his inaugural address, Donald Trump declared that, effective immediately, he was transferring power to "you, the people." The new president added, "For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.... That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you."What we didn't fully appreciate at the time is that Trump may have been talking to oil industry lobbyists.Postscript: If you're thinking that this provision of the law seems unfamiliar, that's because it hasn't yet taken effect. The Atlantic explained, "After years of delay, on June 27, 2016, the Securities Exchange Commission published a final version of the rule that enforces [the disclosure requirement]. It was set to go into effect in 2018."Congressional Republicans are scrambling to prevent that from happening. The House-backed bill now heads to the GOP-led Senate. Because of the kind of legislation, Democrats will not be able to filibuster the legislation.