Lawmakers fear ‘time is running out’ to regulate congressional stock trading

While U.S. lawmakers have proposed at least a dozen overlapping bills to regulate their own stock trading, it wasn’t until Thursday that a senator detailed plans for a final effort to pass the legislation this year. .

“We need to be able to come back in two weeks and have a consolidated vision in the Senate,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said of the work to be done during the upcoming Easter recess. “Otherwise we will miss this opportunity.”

With election season fast approaching, he told reporters, “Time is running out.”

Congressional inaction comes despite public support for a move to control lawmakers’ trading following recent scandals, including reports that two senators sold stocks after receiving a private coronavirus briefing in 2020 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also drew attention to the important because of her husband’s lucrative stock trading.

Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has been pushing lawmakers to ban stock trading for years. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Craig Holman, the Capitol Hill lobbyist for Public Citizen, said three key senators — Sens. Merkley, Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — are developing a plan to regulate lawmakers’ professions. They agree on the need to prohibit exchanges but are not yet on the same wavelength. They disagree on whether lawmakers can hold individual ruling shares without trading them and whether a new rule should apply to their family members.

“If the Senate acts first, which is what I expect to happen, that will be the big motivator to get the House on board,” said Holman, who added that he n There were no details on the plans of the three senators.

Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) speaks to reporters about his efforts to ban congressional stock trading between members, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) spoke to reporters about his efforts to ban congressional stock trading among members in February (REUTERS/Tom Brenner)

A host of Republicans have introduced bills to ban stock trading in Congress, but the extent of their involvement in these ongoing talks, or the number of people who would support a consensus bill, is not clear. not clear.

“The various proposals for legislative reform”

A congressional hearing on Thursday illustrated just how much lawmakers disagree on their approaches.

“There remain significant political questions about the appropriate approach and the specifics,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Administration Committee.

Witnesses and lawmakers then followed with a host of options that left little room for compromise.

“I want to make it clear that a ban on stock trading is not complicated,” said Liz Hempowicz, who represented the Project on Government Oversight, which advocates for a full ban on trading.

But several Republican lawmakers, such as Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), have warned of a “reflex bill” carried by Democratic voices. A growing number of lawmakers — including some Democrats — have also raised questions about the various proposals.

The hearing also repeatedly touched on a question that would complicate reform efforts: whether new rules should apply to members of the executive branch, the judiciary and the Federal Reserve.

I bet we’ll get there’

While congressional stock trading has garnered more attention recently, efforts to regulate the practice date back at least a decade. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which required public disclosure of transactions within 45 days.

U.S. President Barack Obama signs the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House in Washington, April 4, 2012. The law ensures members of Congress are subject to the same insider trading laws than other Americans.  REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Then-President Barack Obama signs the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act in April 2012. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

However, a recent Insider investigation found that 59 members of Congress violated provisions of the STOCK Act. And in the run-up to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) have come under fire for selling stocks shortly after a private pandemic briefing. Burr faced a Justice Department investigation that ultimately ended without charge.

Popular sites now track lawmakers’ transactions for advice. Iris Social Fellowship Application said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has quickly become a stock-picking legend,” although it’s actually her husband who trades stocks.

When asked Thursday if Pelosi would support a bill, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) said, “I can’t speak for House leadership.” But, he added, “I bet we’ll get there.”

For his part, Holman said he could pass “with or without” Pelosi.

“I’m really counting on the Senate to take the lead,” Holman, who worked on passing the original STOCK Act, told Yahoo Finance this week.

It remains unclear how lawmakers will overcome their differences in the coming weeks. In just one example, Gillibrand told The Hill she would not support a bill that did not include members of the executive and judiciary, calling such a provision “essential”.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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