Senator Lieberman Delivers Statement Proposing a New Committee to Review Sales of U.S. Properties to Foreign Investors

The following statement was delivered by Senator Lieberman on the Floor of the United Sates Senate regarding the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on behalf of legislation introduced by Senator Collins and myself that would create a new Committee for Secure Commerce at the Department of Homeland Security to review the proposed sale of U.S. properties to foreign investers. This Committee would replace the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, whose hasty approval of the Dubai Ports World acquisition of terminals at several U.S. ports led to a public outcry, which eventually led to DPW’s withdrawal from the deal. The entire affair has been poorly handled, from the original failure to conduct a thorough investigation to the failure to consult with and inform the Congress and the American public. Any proposed foreign investment in this country needs a thorough and fair review to ensure that our national security or homeland security is not jeopardized. I was not among those who called for the deal to be prohibited before a thorough investigation was conducted, because I felt that Dubai Ports World never got a chance to make a case that its ownership of port terminals in the U.S. would not jeopardize our homeland security. Because of the initial public outcry, they were condemned before they were allowed to stand trial, and I believed that violated this nation’s commitment to the rule of law. A required 45-day investigation of the deal should have been initiated. Congress should have been better informed of the proposed acquisition in the works. And the American people deserved a clear explanation from their President about why he thought the sale was in our interest. National security must be the first consideration in the sale of U.S. property to foreign investors, especially at this period in our history, when the threat of terrorist attack is always present. Our legislation would ensure that foreign investments are scrutinized by the agencies most directly responsible for protecting this nation. That is the underlying purpose of our legislation. Our bill would create the Committee for Secure Commerce within the Department of Homeland Security to review and investigate any mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers of assets within the U.S. by foreign companies. Like CFIUS, the new Committee would have 30 days to conduct a review of transactions, but could also seek a longer, 45-day investigation as well. A 45-day investigation would be obligatory if a company controlled by a foreign government tries to purchase assets involved in U.S. interstate commerce. And if any member of the Committee objected to a proposed deal, the President would have the final say on whether it went forward, or whether a divestiture, or some other remedy, was necessary. The Committee would be chaired by the Department of Homeland Security. The Defense Department would serve as a vice chair. Our bill also strengthens Congressional oversight by requiring immediate congressional notification of all mandatory investigations, and quarterly reports on all other transactions. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs received an illuminating briefing on the Dubai Ports World deal late last month. At that briefing, we learned that the Coast Guard had expressed some intelligence concerns about the transaction but that not all CFIUS members were informed of these concerns. Our legislation addresses this shortcoming by adding the Director of National Intelligence as a full member of the committee and ensuring all intelligence assessments are consolidated and shared with all Committee members and the President. Our legislation is intended to directly address the concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office that CFIUS tended to focus more on investments issues rather than security issues – by placing DHS and DoD in charge, and by specifically including homeland security issues as factors to be considered by the new committee. The rush to judgment on the DPW deal did not allow the company to stand or fall on its own merits. And that is not how we do things in America. We do not judge people in our democracy by their race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or age. We judge people on their merits. I believe this legislation would establish a better process for judging the wisdom or folly of selling U.S. property to foreign owners by establishing that the nation’s security should be the pre-eminent consideration in foreign purchases of U.S. property and by ensuring that everyone’s concerns about such sales get a fair hearing. Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.