Senators advocating bipartisan good government legislation to ensure members of Congress and their staffs are held to the same insider-trading standards as the rest of America, sought Tuesday to limit the number of non-germane amendments to their bill, now being debated on the Senate Floor.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Senator Kirstin Gillibrand , D-N.Y., and Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., opened debate on the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, S. 2038, Monday afternoon. Debate is expected to last most of this week.
"This is a clean, good government bill," said Lieberman at a Tuesday press conference. "We urge our colleagues to offer amendments related to insider trading or disclosure and hold off on non-germane amendments that could impede swift passage of the bill. We need to show the American people that Congress is not hopelessly gridlocked on this issue and that our only business here in Congress is the people's business."
Collins said: "The STOCK Act is intended to affirm that Members of Congress are not exempt from our laws prohibiting insider trading. We need to reassure a skeptical public that we understand that elective office is a place for public service, not private gain. Underscoring that important message is clearly the intent of this legislation, and that is why I support it."
Gillibrand said: "I urge my colleagues -- let's focus on the specific task at hand. Let's show the American people that we can come together to get things done to restore their trust in us. If there are ideas to make this bill stronger, let's debate them. But let's not get bogged down in politics-as-usual with non-germane side issues that will prevent us from swiftly moving to the up or down vote the American people expect of us," said Senator Gillibrand.
Brown said: "Members of Congress should have to live by the same rules as everyone else. We need to keep the focus of this bill laser sharp so that we are able to pass it. While there are many amendments that I would support, this is not the vehicle. Let's keep our eye on the prize and get this bill passed for the president to sign."
Gillibrand and Brown introduced the first Senate versions of the STOCK Act last year, which the Committee perfected and approved December 14, 2012.
The STOCK Act clarifies an ambiguity in the law to make clear that Members of Congress and their staffs are not exempt from insider trading laws. The bill amends the 1934 Securities Exchange Act -- the main law governing insider trading -- to bar Members of Congress and their staffs explicitly from trading on non-public information they obtain by virtue of their positions.
The bill also requires the Ethics Committees of both houses of Congress to clarify that Members and staff may not use non-public information derived from their position in Congress to make a private profit of any sort.
Disclosure of securities trades exceeding $1,000 would be required within 30 days and these disclosures would have to be publicly available online.
Finally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to study and report back to Congress on so-called "political intelligence consultants" -- who gather information to sell to investors -- and determine if they should be required to disclose their activities and clients the same way lobbyists do.