Conflict Bill Introduced in House

The Senate’s compromise conflict diamond bill has been introduced in the House.

Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) recently replaced his original “Clean Diamonds Act” with the compromise legislation that has the support of both the industry and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Co-sponsors include Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.).

The bill’s proponents are upbeat about its prospects. “It’s just a matter of the clock now,” says Hall spokeswoman Deborah DeYoung, noting that the goal is to pass the bill by the end of the year.

The ultimate arbiter will be the Bush administration, but Hall’s office is “cautiously optimistic” it can win support from that quarter, DeYoung says. Hall seems to be on good terms with the administration: He recently co-sponsored its “faith-based” initiative in the House.

Matt Runci, head of Jewelers of America’s legislative committee, says the challenge now is to keep the bill on the congressional radar screen.

“We need to keep this high enough on the priority list so it gets the attention it deserves,” Runci says. “We have to add a certain sense of urgency to this message.”

For this reason, JA is asking all industry members to contact their senators and representatives and ask them to support the bill. Sample letters can be found on the JA Web site, www.jewelers.org. In addition, JA will place ads in Washington, D.C., publications urging congressional support. The NGOs may co-sponsor this effort, Runci says.

The industry’s efforts seemed to run into a glitch when Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who had sponsored the first industry-backed bill, attached the original non-compromise version as an appropriations rider. Following this, Sen. Gregg and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), sponsor of the compromise bill in the Senate, met and resolved the issue, Runci says. Sen. Gregg now backs the compromise bill and may switch his rider for the compromise version.

“As opposed to being a problem, this is now actually another avenue for us,” Runci says. “We want to still work with Senator Gregg and give him as much credit as we can for helping us early on.”