Senate rejects transparency rule for oil companies

The US Capitol dome and it's reflection are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 29, 2012.

Story highlights

  • The Republican Congress is using a special legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act
  • Proponents of the rule say it's aimed to prevent companies from bribing foreign governments

Washington (CNN)The Senate voted to reject a federal rule Friday that requires energy companies to report payments made to foreign governments to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The resolution passed 52-47 along party lines, with Republicans voting to disapprove of the rule and Democrats defending it. The GOP-controlled House passed the same resolution Thursday.
The Republican-led Congress is using a special legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act to repeal a slew of rules and regulations put in place in the waning days of the Obama administration.
The rule -- "Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers" -- mandates that oil, natural gas and mineral companies disclose to the SEC any financial dealings with foreign governments in an annual report.
Proponents of the rule say it's aimed to prevent companies from bribing foreign governments and taking part in other forms of corruption, but opponents argue it creates undue burdens on American companies and puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
The American Petroleum Institute applauded action in Congress this week to hammer away at the rule.
"Today's House vote is a necessary step by Congress to establish sensible regulations that balance increasing transparency without diminishing our industry's competitive advantage," API Director of Tax Policy Stephen Comstock said in a statement. "The SEC's rule requires disclosure for American companies but not foreign entities, fundamentally harming American workers and shareholders."
Attacking their Republican colleagues, some Democratic senators were quick to draw a link between the outcome of the vote and the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a former CEO of ExxonMobil.
"It should be lost on no one that in less than 48 hours, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed the former head of ExxonMobil to serve as our secretary of state and repealed a key anti-corruption rule that ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute have erroneously fought for years," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer argued that rejecting the rule stands against Trump's promise to eliminate corruption among government and special interests.
"If the President is actually serious about fighting corruption in Washington and draining the swamp, he will show some courage and veto this bill immediately," he said in a statement.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, was the lone senator not to vote on the rule Friday.