According to a leading proponent of the legislation, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the legislation to ban members of Congress from trading stocks will not be introduced by the Democrats until after the November midterm election. Merkley said: “I’m looking forward to getting this across the finish line, but it’s not going to happen before the election.”
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, formed a working group in February, for the purpose of developing consensus legislation that would stand a chance of passing the evenly-divided Senate, where floor time is valuable.
The move from the New York Democrat came after a widespread violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act was revealed in an investigation. To address the problem, a slew of legislation was introduced, reported Business Insider.
During an interview in the US Capitol, Markley said: “I feel like we’ve made very large strides towards a consensus bill. But there are a whole lot of other bills and judicial nominations lined up for the balance of the few days we have left here.”
Other two members of the Senate working group said that they couldn’t confirm Merkley’s assessment of the stock bill. But neither would refute it, either. “I don’t have a comment. Except what I’ve consistently said, which is that it’s time to vote,” Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat added: “There is no reason that we should not have a stock trading bill on the floor and vote on it. Every day that we delay on passing meaningful restrictions on stock trading among members of Congress is a day that further erodes the credibility of this body.”
The news from Markley’s Senate comes just a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that the House may vote on legislation to ban congressional stock trading this month. “We believe we have a product that we can bring to the floor this month. I’m pleased with it, it’s very strong,” she told reporters at her weekly press conference.
The potential for enacting the widely-popular reform of this Congress could be imperiled, as the decision was made to punt the much-anticipated legislation into this year’s lame-duck session, when lawmakers may feel less pressure from the public so soon after an election.
A senior ethics fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, Walter Shaub, who has been working with Merkley and other Senate Democrats on the consensus legislation, ripped into Merkley in a statement.
Shaub said: “I’m not surprised to hear this is Senator Merkley’s position. He took control of the working group and slow-walked this thing for 223 days. It’s a tragic lost opportunity and a shameful failure.”
However, Markley said that in over a decade working on the issue, he’s never felt so close to fixing what he says is a significant ethical problem, so he did sounded an optimistic note on the case. “I think we have the best momentum that we’ve ever had in the 10 years I’ve been fighting to end this practice of stock trading. Our candidates are much more aware of it, our entire membership continues to see how it creates a real conflict of interest if you have a personal portfolio and you’re serving the public,” he said.
The legislation being hammered out by Senate Democrats will also include a ban on spouses from trading stocks, closing a potential loophole in the existing legislation, Merkley said previously.
“Slowly over time, we have reached a strong consensus on almost everything. You can touch the brass ring, but we can’t quite grab it yet. But part of that is people realizing it’s not going to get on the floor because of the bills that are stacked up before the election anyway,” said Markley.
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