Man Bites Dog: A Little Progress in Washington

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“Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow,” President Obama said in his State of the Union last week and as he was leaving the chamber he promised Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown that he would press Majority Leader Harry Reid to get it done.

President Barack Obama greets Sen. Daniel Inouye, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Scott Brown, and Sen. John Kerry, on Capitol Hill in Washington. January 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama greets, from second from left, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, after delivering his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Brown is one of the sponsors of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. The President officially endorsed the bill Monday afternoon and that evening the Senate voted 93-2 to begin debate. The “no” votes were from Republicans Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The Washington Post reports, “The ethics debate — the chamber’s first since its rules were rewritten in 2007 — is likely to last several days and the legislation could be amended. Its main focus is to make clear that ‘members of Congress and employees of Congress are not exempt from the prohibitions’ of SEC laws prohibiting insider trading. In addition, the legislation would require the Senate to file its annual financial disclosure forms in an electronic way that is easy to search, an attempt to erase the chamber’s anachronistic ways to file paper forms.”

The House has yet to schedule a vote on a similar bill sponsored by Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.). According to The Hill, “Democrats in the Senate hope their quick action will suggest Republicans are resistant to the popular bill.”

I wrote a piece about the STOCK Act for in early December and on Moyers & Company, Bill recommended Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and their Friends Get Rich off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison. Schweizer was featured in the “60 Minutes” piece that after years of congressional resistance finally gave the insider trading bill some traction.

It should be noted that in the State of the Union, President Obama also called for enacting rules that would “limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.” Unfortunately, that’s not covered in the current Senate legislation.

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