Politics makes strange bedfellows.
That was on stark display as a bipartisan group of 21 legislators — conservatives, moderates and progressives — came together Thursday to urge the House to pass a bill to ban stock trading by members of Congress.
“Congress should be putting the needs of their constituents and the American people first, not their stock portfolios,” said Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse.
He, along with Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Matt Rosendale as well as Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Abigail Spanberger and others, wrote to the leaders of the House Administration Committee to urge them to mark up a bill that would ban congressional stock trading before the August recess.
Many of the lawmakers said it’s about trust. Members of Congress get briefings on numerous issues that could affect markets, they are also in a regulatory position where their actions can shape the fortunes of publicly traded companies.
“The American people think it's outrageous,” said Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. who introduced the Trust in Congress Act with GOP Rep. Chip Roy. “This is about more than just stomping out impropriety. This is about stamping out even the perception of impropriety.”
A number of bills have been introduced that do just that, although they vary in the details, from extending the ban to family members, to how much time they give lawmakers to divest their current stocks, to whether a blind trust could be used.
“The differences are unimportant,” said Buck, who introduced a bill with Jayapal and Rosendale to ban stock owning and trading by congress members and their spouses. “The important thing is that we move something, that we tell the American people we are, that we recognize the issue of appearance of impropriety, we recognize that something needs to happen … and I hope all members will embrace this idea that our ethical responsibilities are far greater than any self-serving interest that we have in this job.”
Neguse agreed: “The difference is pale in comparison to the commonality.”
He mentioned he is a co-sponsor of a number of bills that would ban stock trading by lawmakers, and suggested the House Administration Committee could take up any one of those and start a, “robust amendment and debate process to get to a piece of legislation that can get a majority on the floor.”
Others suggested the process might be more involved, including another legislative hearing on the issue.
“I think we have to coalesce around one set of values in this bill,” Buck said. He added that he and others in the Republican conference also fought hard to have a ‘majority of the majority rule’ for their caucus — meaning a bill must have the support of most Republican members for the Speaker to move it to the full chamber. So, Buck said, Republicans in the group will have to work “to make sure that we’ve got 51 percent that want this bill on the floor.”
As Rosendale said, “It will be a balancing act.”
But this group hopes to get that act started on soon with some committee action.
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