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Democrats run out the clock on a congressional stock-ban bill

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pelosiUS House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

  • In December 2021, Nancy Pelosi declared that lawmakers “should be able to participate” in the “free-market” economy.
  • After months of wrangling over a congressional stock-trade ban, Pelosi is getting that wish.
  • Congress is rife with conflicts-of-interest, and 77 federal lawmakers have violated the STOCK Act.

On September 20, 2022, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a Democratic leadership-backed bill banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks would receive a vote.

“We believe we have a product that we can bring to the floor this month,” she said.

Three months later, with the 117th Congress about to conclude, there’s been no vote, nor is one scheduled. Some government ethics advocates had hoped that congressional stock-ban legislation would be packaged with the 2023 omnibus spending bill.

But those dreams were killed on Tuesday with the omnibus bill’s release: The 4,155-page bill, which funds the government for another year and includes numerous pet projects of members of Congress, contains mentions of “livestock,” “stockpiles,” and “fish stock.”

Not included: language banning members from trading individual stocks, despite a bipartisan congressional push to do so. The bill’s all-but-certain demise — and the deep-sixing of several other, similar stock-ban bills — ends (for now) a yearlong legislative odyssey over how public officials should handle their personal finances.  

Insider’s “Conflicted Congress” investigative project, launched in December 2021, helped trigger the debate.

The ongoing project revealed numerous lawmaker conflictsofinterest. It also unearthed evidence that dozens of members of Congress, and hundreds of top congressional staffers, had violated the disclosure provisions of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 — a law Congress passed to govern its own members’ personal financial dealings.

On December 15, 2021, Insider’s Bryan Metzger asked Pelosi if she thought members should be allowed to trade. She answered in the affirmative.

“We are a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that,” she said.

Her response led to withering criticism from members of both parties. Most voters said they disagreed with her.

Pelosi, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and whose husband, Paul Pelosi, is a serial investor, ultimately acquiesced to her colleagues introducing legislation and a congressional committee conducting a public hearing.

“If members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” Pelosi said.

Progress, however, soon stalled. Spring turned to summer and summer faded to autumn. By late September, with election season in full flourish, Democratic leaders in the House and Senatedespite indications to the contrary — ultimately declined to conduct a vote on a newly written stock- and cryptocurrency-ban bill backed by House leaders.

Its name: the “Combatting Financial Conflicts of Interest in Government Act.” Committee on House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, is its sponsor.

But when lawmakers returned to Washington, DC, after midterm elections for Congress’ “lame-duck” session, Democratic leaders did not advance stock-ban legislation or otherwise move to include it as part of other must-pass bills, such as the omnibus spending bill. Republicans — some support a ban, others don’t — had no hard power to compel them.

And President Joe Biden, as he had for the entire year, remained silent on the stock-ban issue amid pleading by reform advocates to speak out and say something — anything.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties continue violating the STOCK Act while 11th-hour pleas from Democratic stock-ban advocates go unanswered by Democratic leaders.

“All I want for Christmas is… for Congress to ban lawmakers from buying, selling, or trading individual stocks while serving the American people,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia, tweeted today.

“It’s time to ban stock trading by members of Congress — because we’re here to serve you, the people, not our own financial interests,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, wrote on Saturday.

“Members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to trade stock. There’s a bipartisan bill to ban this, so why hasn’t it passed?” Democratic activist Nina Turner asked.

Representatives for Pelosi and Lofgren did not respond to Insider’s inquiries this week.

A ban on members of Congress trading individual stocks and cryptocurrencies will officially die on January 3, when the 118th Congress is seated. Republicans, not Democrats, will then control the US House while Democrats retain the US Senate.

Any stock-ban bill introduced next year will therefore require bipartisan support across Congress’ two chambers.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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