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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.

Even while Congress sprints to pass a major reform bill that gained momentum following one media exposé, the hits keep coming.

In the past two weeks, the New York Times reported Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) might have taken campaign donations over the legal limit, Roll Call reported Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) received double reimbursements for travel, and the Washington Post released a report connecting earmarks to properties owned by Members.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama switched his position on super PACs, urging bundlers to help bring in donations unlimited in size, something he once called a “threat to democracy,” and he returned $200,000 in donations from the family of a fugitive casino magnate.

“Eighty-six percent of the public thinks we’re not worth a warm bucket of spit. And you’ve heard me say I’m looking for the other 14 to find out why they’re not part of the 86 percent. I’m part of the 86 percent,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday.

The volatile public mood is greasing the skids for the House to pass the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, legislation codifying a ban on insider trading by Members. The Senate passed the bill last week.

While insider trading is already illegal, backers say legislation is needed to ensure the law will apply to Members of Congress who are privy to nonpublic information.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will bring the STOCK Act to the floor Thursday, and a senior GOP aide said it is likely language will be offered to “strengthen and expand” the legislation by applying the bill’s provisions to the executive branch, preventing Members convicted of crimes from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions and banning Members from receiving special access to initial public offerings.

It was unclear at press time whether the legislation would come to the floor under suspension of the rules or otherwise. The House Rules Committee approved a rule Tuesday that would allow it to come to the floor through Thursday under suspension.

“It is unacceptable for anyone in this body to profit from nonpublic information,” Cantor said.

Lawmakers know there is peril in opposing the measure, even on the merits.

“Great bill. Way to reinforce the fact that we’re a bunch of crooks, even when we’re not. I’m a yes,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) deadpanned.

The bill’s path is also drawing warnings that Congress might overreach.

“I always get a little nervous when Congress rushes through legislation. It tends to either overreact or miss the mark,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), a GOP deputy whip.

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