Senate bill to ban stock trading by lawmakers pushed back past midterm

  • Senate Democrats will not release a consensus bill to ban congressional stock trading until midterm.
  • “It’s not going to happen before the election,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, one of the issue’s leading advocates.
  • It comes just a day after Nancy Pelosi said the House could vote on a bill this month.

Senate Democrats will not introduce legislation barring members of Congress from trading stocks until November’s midterm elections, according to Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a leading supporter of the legislation.

“I can’t wait to cross the finish line, but it won’t happen until after the election,” Merkley told Insider on Thursday.

In February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer formed a task force with the goal of crafting consensus legislation that would have a chance of passing the equally divided Senate, where speaking time is precious. .

The New York Democrat’s decision came after Insiders’ “Conflicted Congress” survey found widespread violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) law. A multitude of laws have been introduced to address the problem.

“I feel like we’ve made some really big strides toward a consensus bill,” Merkley said in an interview at the U.S. Capitol. “But there are plenty of other bills and judicial appointments pending for the rest of the few days we have left here.”

Two other members of the Senate task force told Insider they could not confirm Merkley’s assessment of the stock bill. But neither would refute it either.

“I have no comment,” said Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia. “Except what I’ve always said, which is that it’s time to vote.”

“There’s no reason why we don’t have a stock trading bill on the floor and we’re voting on it,” added Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “Every day that we delay passing meaningful restrictions on stock trading among members of Congress is a day that further erodes the credibility of this body.”

Nancy Pelosi gestures

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in August 2022.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Merkley’s Senate news comes just a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the House could vote on legislation to ban Congressional stock trading this month.

“We think we have a product that we can deliver this month,” she told reporters at her weekly press conference on Wednesday. “I’m happy with it, it’s very strong.”

The decision to submit the much-awaited legislation to this year’s lame session – when lawmakers may feel less public pressure so soon after an election – could jeopardize the potential to enact the wildly popular reform. of this Congress.

Walter Shaub, senior ethics researcher at the Project on Government Oversight — who has worked with Merkley and other Senate Democrats on consensus legislation — ripped Merkley in a statement to Insider.

“I’m not surprised to hear that’s Senator Merkley’s position,” Shaub said. “He took over the task force and slowed this thing down for 223 days. This is a tragic missed opportunity and a shameful failure.”

But Merkley sounded an optimistic note, saying that in more than a decade of working on the issue, he has never felt so close to resolving what he says is a significant ethical issue.

“I think we have the best momentum we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been fighting to end this stock trading practice,” he said. “Our candidates are much more aware of this, our whole membership continues to see how it creates a real conflict of interest if you have a personal portfolio and are in service to the public.”

Merkley previously told Insider that legislation drafted by Senate Democrats will also include a ban on spouses trading stocks, which will fill a potential loophole in existing legislation.

“Slowly over time we came to a solid consensus on almost everything,” he said. “You can touch the brass ring, but we can’t quite grasp it yet. But part of that is people realizing that it’s not going to fall on the floor because of the bills that are piled up before the election anyway.”

Merkley also told Insider that he was unaware of the details of the legislation drafted by House Democratic leaders, raising questions about whether the House and Senate versions will have meaningful differences.

“I will assess what the House does when it acts,” Merkley said. He also noted that several House of Representatives supporters of the stock ban legislation say they are unaware of what the leaders are working on.

On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia – a leading supporter of a bill to bar members of Congress and their wives from trading stocks – confirmed the lack of communication between House leaders and Insider.

“Literally no emails returned, no phone calls returned, like, ghost,” she said.

Norman D. Briggs