Republican leaders pushed to expand a proposed insider trading ban for Members of Congress to top executive branch officials today, but the White House said such a ban is already in place.
“The president is calling on Congress to live up to a standard that he isn’t requiring of his own employees,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.
At a news conference, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also pushed the Senate to add the executive branch to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.
“The bill does not adequately cover those connected with the federal government in the executive branch that are in positions with access and are privy to information that could be used to personally benefit those individuals,” the Virginia Republican said.
The White House, however, called on Congress to quickly send the STOCK Act to Obama’s desk and contended that a ban on insider trading for executive branch officials is redundant.
“Executive branch employees are already covered by the insider trading prohibitions,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “And Congress itself heard testimony in December that suggested some doubt about whether the [Securities and Exchange Commission] can enforce those existing laws against Members of Congress. The STOCK Act is needed to make absolutely clear that Members of Congress are banned from insider trading too.”
The bill is hung up in the Senate as lawmakers fight behind closed doors over which of several tricky ethics amendments will be allowed to come up for a vote. Among the proposals is one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) targeting the executive branch, as well as another Paul amendment that would strip pensions from Members of Congress if they become lobbyists after they retire. The pension amendment was strongly opposed on the Senate floor by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) complained that Senators were demanding votes on non-germane amendments before they would allow votes on anyone else’s amendments, and he threatened to file cloture.
Cantor said that if the Senate does not act, he intends to bring a bill to the floor in February to address the issue.