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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that aims to ban insider stock deals among members of Congress, their key staffers and top administration officials.
The 96-3 vote was a huge victory for Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, who has been pushing a somewhat different version of the so-called “STOCK Act” for six years.
The measure had languished until a November report on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that cast doubt on the propriety of the stock trades of several members of Congress — including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the husband of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has vowed to bring a version of the STOCK Act to the House floor sometime this month. He has said the House version of the bill is not broad enough, and has indicated the House may end up voting on a stronger measure that also bans insider land deals.
One of the dissenters was Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). According to Sen. Bingaman, an amendment by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) to the STOCK Act would subject 300,000 federal worker to the bill’s 30 day public disclosure reporting requirements for investments. Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) aides dispute this figure and say the amendment would only apply to 28,000 workers. Still, according to the New Mexico Democrat:
I can’t support a bill that places unreasonable and burdensome reporting requirements on over 300,000 federal workers.
Also voting against the STOCK Act was Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). Sen. Coburn said his opposition to banning members of Congress from engaging in the kinds of insider trading revealed in Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer’s New York Times bestselling book, Throw Them All Out, and the much-discussed 60 Minutes investigation his book sparked, is that he is not convinced any such instances of insider trading even exist.
The assumption here is that some of our colleagues are doing insider trading on the stock market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real insider trading is the horse-trading that goes on in this body that is not always in the best interest of the country.
On the floor of the Senate, Sen. Coburn said,
I honestly believe everyone in our body is never going to use insider trading to advantage themselves over the best interests of the country….Nobody in this chamber can name somebody right now who’s trading on inside information.
Sen. Coburn’s comments stand in sharp contrast to Peter Schweizer’s investigations revealing the curious stock trades expertly-timed investment transactions of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and others.
The third dissenter to the ban on congressional insider trading was Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). According to Sen. Burr, the STOCK Act “does no more than codify what existing law says. It’s ludicrous.“ Sen. Burr called the legislation “insane,” equated the measure to passing a law requiring citizens to get a driver’s license (which already exists), and called himself and Sen. Tom Coburn “brave” for standing up against the ban.