The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday to bring a bill banning members of Congress and their staffs from engaging in insider trading closer to passage.
The committee amended and adopted the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which picked up steam after a ’60 Minutes’ report blew the lid of such practices last month, by a 7-2 vote.
The committee action follows the postponement of a similar “mark-up” of the bill in the House Financial Services Committee was stalled last month – mostly because the committee chairman, Rep. Spencer Bachus, was one of the lawmakers named in the 60 Minutes report.
“The new version of the STOCK Act actually expands restrictions on Congress, barring members from profiting in any way – not just on stock trades – based on information that is not public,” said committee chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
The new bill explicitly states that Members of Congress and their staffs have a “duty of trust and confidence” to Congress, the U.S. Government, and the American people – a duty they violate by trading on non-public information.
The committee bill calls for an investigation into the “political intelligence” industry by the Government Accountability Office, and the committee will also hold a hearing on the issue — but removed a proposal to regulate the industry like lobbyists.
It’s not yet clear if the bill has the support of leadership in either chamber, but one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), called on the Senate to take it up for a vote as soon as possible.
“Members of Congress need to live by the same rules as everyone else, and it must be clear that public service can never be abused for private gain,” Brown said in a statement. “With the approval of Congress at an all-time low, the full Senate now has the opportunity to pass this bill and begin rebuilding its reputation with the American people. To that point, I call on Senate leadership to bring this bill to the floor as soon as possible.”
One lawmaker who voted against the bill, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), said he wants more time to consider the bill before there is a vote. “We shouldn’t be in a super hurry to fix a political problem,” he said.
Laena Fallon, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who intervened to postpone the Bachus markup after bipartisan concerns were raised, said in a statement that “Complete and total transparency is the key to restoring public trust. Sunlight goes a long way, which is why we are committed to moving forward in a reasoned and responsible way.”
Any action on the STOCK Act will have to wait until January at earliest — as Congress remains deadlocked over how to fund the government past Friday, as well as how to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut.
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