On Sunday, in Lafayette, LA, The Advertiser printed an opinion from Sen. Mary Landrieu entitled, “Sanctions, as written, will hurt La. workers.” While we hoped Sen. Landrieu was writing to clarify the record in response to our post last week, she was writing instead to respond to an earlier opinion in The Advertiser written by Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Sen. Landrieu began by referring to the Lake Charles, LA oil refinery as “owned by Citgo, a Venezuelan company with a strong and respected reputation in Louisiana.” Citgo, however, is quite clearly a U.S. company, founded and incorporated in the United States over a hundred years ago. It became wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, the Venezuelan national oil company, in 1990, but remained a U.S. company. The hawkish view on U.S. sanctions is, of course, that Citgo, even though a U.S. company employing U.S. persons, is not immune from the conduct of its foreign parent if, in this case, Petróleos de Venezuela’s conduct were found to be at variance with U.S. economic sanctions and was added to the SDN List, its subsidiary Citgo would be equally blocked and unable to employ U.S. workers.
In her opinion, Sen. Landrieu continued to defend her opposition to the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 because she believed that “the legislation as written was too vague” and “will continue to oppose it unless the language of this resolution makes crystal clear that there will be no threat to the [Lake Charles] refinery.” But, as we pointed out last week, Sen. Landrieu’s references to amending the Act have led to no clear (crystal or otherwise) suggestions on how to do so. We think we can help her out.
The Act, like other sanctions bills, already permits the President to waive the application of sanctions against a person if he determines that such waiver is necessary for the “national security interests of the United States.” The amendment we recommend to Sen. Landrieu is to rewrite the waiver in Section 5(c)(1) to read, “The President may waive the application of sanctions under subsection (b) with respect to a person if the President determines that such a waiver is in the national security or economic interests of the United States.” By adding simply “or economic” to the waiver condition, the President has another avenue to defend not imposing sanctions against otherwise sanctionable foreign persons. Again, as we pointed out last week, the President would not take lightly a decision to block Citgo’s assets in Louisiana or anywhere else in United States. Congress, moreover, would be hard-pressed to oppose a waiver if the President were able to show that imposing sanctions would have tremendous economic ramifications.
If Sen. Landrieu wants to take the position that U.S. economic sanctions against human rights violators can’t come with a cost that significantly harms the U.S. economy, there is a way to protect that interest. Whether or not her position wins the day on the Senate floor, we think the only practical way to do so is to give the President more discretion in how he may choose not to impose sanctions. A tidy addition of the two words “or economic” should do the trick and put to bed another odd episode of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.”