Congress leaders warm to Legislature ban on stock trading | politics
Congressional leaders — in both parties and in both houses — are quick to warm to the idea of banning lawmakers from buying and trading stocks while in office, another bipartisan effort with a recent surge of momentum aimed at tackling conflicts of interest among to contain the members.
The issue came to the fore in 2020 after allegations surfaced against some members of the stock trade after attending a secret briefing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the push for a ban caught fire again last December, after Business Insider released a report detailing each lawmaker’s financial transactions, including all stock infractions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was the latest in the leadership to open the door in support of a ban. At her press briefing on Wednesday, she said the House Administrative Committee is reviewing and developing legislation based on options proposed by a number of members. Pelosi has evolved on the issue in recent weeks, first against a ban late last year and later reversing to say she will retire to her own caucus.
Pelosi said the approach to disclosure should be “government-wide” because, unlike members of Congress, those who work in the federal judiciary are not required to report stock transactions. She also said she wants to “increase fines” for those violating the STOCK Act, the law that prohibits members from using non-public information they learn at work to trade stocks.
“[T]The third branch of government, the judiciary, has no reporting,” Pelosi said. “The Supreme Court … has no coverage of stock transactions and makes important decisions every day.”
“It’s a trust issue and if members want it, then we will do it,” Pelosi added. “It’s complicated, but members will figure it out.”
The issue is gaining support from all corners of Congress and is already being touted by members and candidates facing tough elections in the November midterms. A number of proposals are in the works in the House and Senate, so it’s unclear what the end product will be. A common theme, however, is that the bills focus on individual stocks and many omit those that are part of a mutual fund.
A House bill reintroduced by Democrat Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Republican Chip Roy of Texas proposes that lawmakers — as well as their spouses and dependent children — put certain assets into a blind trust while they serve. There is a similar proposal from Senate Democrats Jon Ossoff of Georgia, who campaigned on the issue in his 2020 race, and Mark Kelly of Arizona.
Another bill by Republican Steve Daines of Montana and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts goes even further and prohibits all members from owning or trading individual stocks.
“They said it would meet relentless resistance at all levels. And it’s true that it ruffled some feathers, and it ruffled some feathers in both parties,” Ossoff told reporters on Wednesday. “It is also true that we have now built up enormous momentum. … We have not only active engagement, but active engagement and statements of support from leadership in both houses of Congress.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave even stronger support to the effort on Tuesday. And under GOP leadership, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California say they are both open to it.
McConnell, noting that he doesn’t trade individual stocks, said Tuesday he will “take a look at this type of legislation and see what might be appropriate.”
Like Pelosi, Schumer is asking his own members to work with their Republican counterparts to create a single bill that can move forward in the Senate.
“I believe this is an important issue for Congress to address. And it’s something that has clearly garnered interest from both sides of the aisle over the past few weeks,” Schumer said, reiterating his support in a speech Wednesday. “I hope something can happen, and I want to encourage my colleagues on the Democratic side to stretch down the aisle.”
Like most legislation, including bipartisan measures, a stock ban still faces a difficult road given slim majorities in both chambers of Congress, particularly in the split 50-50 Senate. Any bill must clear a potential filibuster by 60 votes and requires bipartisan support.
Efforts have also picked up momentum while Congress deals with a number of other priorities, including a must-pass deal to fund the government. And a bipartisan group of senators is working on reforms to the Electoral Count Act, a centuries-old statute that dictates how Congress certifies presidential elections that came to light after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Still, a bill revolving around congressional transparency could hand both Democrats and Republicans a victory ahead of the fall election — especially if other legislative efforts ultimately fail.