“You had folks that wanted to extend it to the press; they wanted to add extraneous provisions to it. You had folks that didn’t want to do anything at all. You had folks that had concerns with particular sentences or sections of the bill in a very mechanical way,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said in an interview.
Even Senators, who had sent the legislative fastball over, were pushing the House to tone down what they’d just passed.
“Most Senators are giddy that we improved the bill,” a Republican House Member said.
Cantor boned up on the issue, reading “Throw Them All Out,” the book by Peter Schweizer that the “60 Minutes” segment was based on, and combing through the bill.
Realizing that, politically, the House needed to act, but facing significant unrest, Cantor met with at least 60 Members about their concerns.
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), who had introduced a similar bill, said Cantor “knew that something was going to move, he just wasn’t sure what it was going to look like.”
Cantor also reached out to Democrats.
“The [Majority Leader] called, and I was very grateful for that,” said Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), one of the co-authors of the bill as originally introduced. Walz said Cantor offered a “guarantee — he said, ‘You know, if we look into this, we want to make sure we get this right.’ He said there’s a study on the political intelligence piece of this, and if it comes back, he pledged to work with us on that.”
The House bill sets up a decision for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over whether to pass the House bill or enter negotiations on a compromise. A Senate Democratic leadership aide indicated negotiations are the more likely route.
“It’s viewed as a positive development that the House acted quickly,” the aide said. “But we are not just going to take up and pass the House bill. There is a strong undercurrent that it needs more work.”
There is a possibility of a formal conference, but there is also a chance leaders will work out a deal. “There will be a negotiation, but it is undecided how formal that will be,” the aide said.
On Friday, Leahy and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders calling for a formal conference. They want to restore a Senate provision strengthening existing federal criminal law for acts of public corruption and raise maximum statutory penalties. Cantor stripped that language.
“The anti-corruption amendment adopted by the Senate to the STOCK Act was carefully drafted to avoid ambiguity and lend certainty to the anti-corruption law,” the letter said. “It is precisely the type of narrow Federal criminal legislation that critics of white collar statutes have claimed to want, and it closes important gaps in the Nation’s anti-corruption laws.”