It’s crunch time for the push to ban Congress from trading stocks

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U.S. lawmakers face a long list of pending tasks before taking the August recess and then focusing primarily on the midterm elections in November, but proponents of the ban on negotiating individual actions in Congress seem optimistic about lawmakers succeeding in resolving this issue.

“I think there’s a big push. It’s just not public,” said Donald Sherman, senior vice president and chief adviser to Citizens for Accountability and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a control group.

“My understanding is that there is a Senate commitment bill that will be released relatively soon. This is a commitment insofar as it combined elements of many people’s bills.”

Sherman said that by “soon” it means “at this time next month.”

The CREW expert also noted some progress in the House of Representatives, following the April 7 hearing of the House Management Committee on possible new limits on the purchase and sale of individual shares by legislators. Sherman said he received additional “fairly robust” questions from that panel earlier this week after testifying at that hearing, “which suggests to me that members are weeding out what comprehensive legislation might look like.” .

“I think the Senate would aim to get something on target before the August recess, so that the House can resolve and approve something in the fall,” Sherman added.

“This is an issue on which members of Congress will be running or running in November. And so I think that timeline makes sense, in order to ensure that members can return to their districts in autumn and show that they have reached the goal “.

About 63 percent of all voters favor a ban on securities trading for lawmakers, with 69 percent support among Democrats and 58 percent among Republicans, according to a recent Morning Consult / Politico poll. But the issue is not so urgent, as Americans are focusing on inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, immigration, climate change and election laws, according to a survey by Quinnipiac University.

The series of bipartisan bills aimed at stopping the trading of individual shares in Congress has been driven in part by reports of lawmakers buying and selling shares in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic after having knowledge of the warnings, along with news that many lawmakers have been late with their revelations. Other reports have raised additional questions, including a January issue of MarketWatch that revealed how Congress resembled a Wall Street bargaining table last year, with lawmakers and their families making an estimated $ 355 million. of dollars in stock trading as SPX market.

he fired.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters last week that he hopes to have legislation on stock trading to vote. “this year. ”

“This is a sign that there is still some momentum, but there is no desire to commit to a particular timeline,” said Jennifer Schulp, an expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

“I see that this could change quickly,” he added, meaning that the time for a vote “could very easily become June or July, if it becomes a priority.”

Schulp, the director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, said he did not support a ban on negotiating individual shares in Congress, saying he would not restore confidence in Congress or address others. conflicts of interest.

It favors measures that increase transparency, such as reducing the time allowed between a transaction and the required disclosure, or increasing penalties for not submitting communications correctly. He also testified at the April 7 hearing.

While Congress is busy trying to cope with inflation, the shortage of baby formula and other issues, the push for a ban on stock quotes “does not conflict with these other issues,” Liz Hempowicz said. , director of public policy for Project on Government. Oversight (POGO), a control body that has pushed for a ban covering lawmakers, their spouses and dependents.

“I think it’s all related, and the public needs to know that Congress can address these kitchen table issues with clear eyes and with the public interest in front and in the center,” Hempowicz said. The alternative is for Americans to end up worried that lawmakers are handling an issue “with their own pocket in mind,” he said.

Public sentiment in favor of a ban helps make it “prudently optimistic” to achieve it, added Hempowicz, who was also one of the witnesses on April 7.

“It simply came to our notice then. It’s right behind the scenes, “he said.

Critics of a ban say it would deter people from running for office or make it difficult to implement, especially if blind trusts are taken into account. Another argument is that US lawmakers should understand what it is like to invest in stocks as they decide on stock market policy.

Deputy Spanberger, the role of President Biden

A House lawmaker who co-sponsored one of the bills that would end the negotiation of individual actions in Congress appeared a little discouraged in an interview this week, though she seemed excited by Schumer’s comment on a Senate vote. in 2022.

“Hopefully we will see them lead by example, faster than we could see actions in the House, which is sad for me, as we are supposed to be the House of Commons,” said Democrat Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, referring to the Senate.

“But if that’s the reality, then I hope they do the right thing, and ideally, hopefully, the House will do it.”

The Senate is dealing with “too many competing ideas,” but the issue in the House “does not unite around legislation,” he said. “The problem is that the leadership of the House does not want to move this. That is the problem in the House.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, defended the stock trading of lawmakers and their spouses in December, but then in January reversed to some extent, asking the Board of Trustees. Chamber that studied a possible ban on trade in Congress and said, “Just don’t buy this. But if members want to do that, I agree with that.”

Pelosi was ranked last year as the eighth largest trader among more than 500 members of Congress, with $ 12 million in purchases and no sales. This is according to the January report of MarketWatch, which used a Capitol Trades analysis of the revelations presented by members of Congress for their business or for the purchases and sales of their relatives.

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia talks about banning stock trading for members of Congress at a press conference on April 7th. They are joined by Senator (LR) Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). ) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO).

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When asked what he is doing to win over Pelosi, Spanberger said, “Getting more co-sponsors.” His bill, introduced with Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, has attracted more than 60 co-sponsors: “Many co-sponsors of a bill that is not coming to a vote imminently,” he said.

The Democrat from Virginia regretted seeing other lawmakers buy shares of pharmaceutical companies or cleaning supplies during the start of the COVID pandemic, as well as buy shares of a defense company that “will produce massive quantities of weapons specific to a war in Ukraine that we knew was coming. “

“The fact that there are members of Congress who think they are ‘right’ to buy shares, which is tantamount to taking advantage of this information, is totally inadmissible to me,” Spanberger said.

“I continue to form a coalition of people who believe that this reform is necessary. But I can’t change everyone’s mind. And unfortunately, there are numbers behind the reasons why some people may not be inclined to support it. “

An additional obstacle could be the 50-50 Senate obstruction rule, in which 60 votes are required to end the debate on most issues, so that the minority party can hamper the efforts of the majority. But some Republican senators have backed trade-focused bills in Congress, such as Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Steve Daines of Montana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

Another control group that is pushing for a ban is expected to involve President Joe Biden, in the hope that this could lead to action.

“We will send a letter asking you to support this and basically follow your campaign promise to push for laws where Congress is not influenced by your personal financial holdings,” said Kedric Payne, senior director of ethics. and general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. (CLC). This refers to the promise of Biden’s campaign to work with Congress to enact laws that would prevent lawmakers from being influenced by these participations.

According to Payne, this letter, with signatures from various groups, is likely to come out this week or next.

The CLC expert links the passage of the 2012 STOCK Act with a strong push by then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address. This law requires the disclosure of action operations by lawmakers and aims to help prevent politicians from doing privileged procedures, but some control groups consider it insufficient.

“It was recognized” a decade ago that the president could give “a push from outside the legislature, and that’s what needs to happen now,” Payne said.

“This problem of perceived conflicts of interest with stock trading does not go away, and it will get worse unless Congress acts immediately,” he added.

Now read: These U.S. lawmakers rank as the largest popular stock traders like Apple and Tesla

And see: Congressional Cryptocurrency Traders: U.S. lawmakers buying and selling digital currencies

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