January 27, 2012

Senate to take up insider-trading bill

The Senate plans to take up legislation next week that would ban lawmakers from profiting on inside information obtained in the halls of Congress.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday that the full Senate will vote on the bill, which she co-sponsored with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

“Thrilled the Senate will take up my #STOCKAct bill next wk to end insider trading by members of Congress,” she wrote. “Time to restore trust in our govt!”

Measures to explicitly prohibit members of Congress and their staff from personally profiting by using inside information obtained in their offical duties have gained steam since a “60 Minutes” report suggested that several top members had done just that. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) were all singled out in the November report. All three have denied the claims made in the report, but members have been eager to get a law on the books clarifying that such behavior is against the law.

President Obama has urged Congress to get moving on such a bill, saying during Tuesday’s State of the Union address that he wants to fix the “corrosive influence of money in politics.”

“Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow,” he said to a standing ovation in the House chamber.

Members of Congress are subject to insider-trading laws just as everyone els is, but no lawmaker has ever been prosecuted for violating such a law, leaving the issue in a legal gray area. As a result, members have been pushing to get a law on the books that explicitly prohibits the practice among federal legislators.

“We need to send a strong message making absolutely clear that members of Congress and their staff are not exempt,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in December at a committee markup of the bill. “The simpler and more direct we can be, the better.”

The question still remains, however, of what will happen to similar legislation in the House. Bachus, eager to clear his name, initially said he wished to fast-track such a bill through his committee, but was told to slow down by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Cantor told “60 Minutes” in a follow-up report that he wishes to advance the bill in 2012 and expand it to cover not only stock trades, but such transactions as real estate deals as well.

Cantor's office reiterated those plans Thursday, but did not offer a more specific timeframe.

"Leader Cantor plans to move an expanded version of the STOCK Act through the House to make it clear that those in Congress are subject to the same laws as everyone else," said a Cantor aide. "He strongly supports increased disclosure to prevent any sense of impropriety and ensure the public’s confidence and trust in our elected officials.”

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