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STOCK Act Speeds Up, Despite Concerns

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
On Tuesday, Reps. Louise Slaughter and Tim Walz, authors of the House version of the STOCK Act, called on Members to pass the legislation.

Three months ago, the STOCK Act was “nowhere,” said House Rules ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), an author of the version of the bill introduced in the House.

Then, on Nov. 13, CBS’ “60 Minutes” ran a segment on instances in which Members may have used knowledge they gleaned from their positions in Congress to profit in the stock market.

“Everyone kept coming up to me saying, ‘I signed on to your bill,’ ‘I signed on to your bill.’ I thought, ‘Hallelujah! Which bill is that?’ And when they told me the STOCK Act, having peddled that thing for six years — the largest number of co-sponsors we ever had was maybe 10,” Slaughter said Tuesday. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Within weeks, nearly 100 Members signed on and it was introduced in the Senate.

Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), another author of the House bill, credited “prairie populism on the left and the tea party on the right” with providing the momentum.

Brought up in the Senate last week, the bill became a magnet for amendments on far-reaching ethics reforms.

The large majority of the 96-3 vote on Thursday masked discomfort over some of the provisions.

“Over in the Senate, they were trying to outdo each other by upping the ante,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. “Bottom line: It reflects a lack of confidence in Congress by the American public. The one significant advantage of passing it is to try to revive some confidence.”

“When you look at the esteem in which Congress is held, the need to provide concrete evidence of reform of the institution is compelling,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said public outcry was good in that it provokes Congress to act.

“Sometimes good things happen in a volatile mood. And if this idea happens, it would be a good thing,” he said.

Though a large bipartisan majority is expected to pass the bill, House Republicans and Democrats skirmished over particulars.

For instance, the House GOP amendment includes a provision tagged the “Pelosi provision” to highlight House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s role in the “60 Minutes” report that helped set off the firestorm.

The provision is “specifically designed around the allegations of Speaker Pelosi mentioned in the ‘60 Minutes’ piece. The Pelosi provision prohibits Members of Congress, executive branch officials and their staffs from receiving special access to initial public offerings because of their position,” the senior GOP aide said.

The “60 Minutes” report questioned whether Pelosi had a “conflict of interest” in participating in an initial public offering for credit card company Visa when legislation affecting credit card companies was making its way through the House.

At a news conference, the California Democrat said it wasn’t a conflict of interest and pointed to her record on legislation affecting credit card companies. Her office later called the segment a “right-wing smear,” CBS reported.

Meanwhile, Slaughter sought to highlight a provision in the Senate bill requiring consultants at political intelligence firms — which keep Wall Street traders apprised of what’s happening in Washington, D.C. — to register as lobbyists.

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