Pelosi says she would agree to ban on actions for lawmakers and judges

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she would agree to a ban on individual stock ownership and trading by members of Congress, a potentially significant U-turn after her initial opposition helped fuel support among Democrats politically. vulnerable looking for ways to distance themselves from their leaders.

But in a complicated twist, she said she wants all stock trading limitations, including existing disclosure rules on stock ownership and trading that now apply to members of Congress and the executive branch, also apply to the judicial branch of government, especially the Supreme. To research.

“It has to be government-wide,” she told reporters at her weekly press conference, adding that “the judiciary has nothing to do with it. The Supreme Court hasn’t disclosed anything. It has no stock trading reports and makes important decisions every day.

Multiple trade ban proposals already exist in the House and Senate, including a new bill unveiled this week by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Steve Daines, Republican of Montana. The campaign was sparked by a series of revelations in 2020 that senators from both parties traded health care stocks after closed-door briefings on the then-nascent coronavirus pandemic.

It has gained momentum in recent weeks as Democrats in conservative-leaning districts, eager to demonstrate their independence from Ms Pelosi and other party leaders, have tackled the issue as a way to make appeal to growing populist sentiment among their constituents.

They saw the power of the issue in the 2020 election, when it powered the victories of two Georgia Democrats, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who lambasted their incumbent Republican rivals for their stock trades.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Majority Leader, traveled to the Senate on Wednesday to urge Democrats to reach out to Republicans and find agreement on a single stock-trading bill that could be adopted by an overwhelming majority.

“I think this is an important issue that Congress should address, and it’s something that has clearly generated interest on both sides of the aisle over the past few weeks,” Schumer said.

But Ms. Pelosi’s embrace was not unequivocal. She said she had instructed the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the operations of the chamber, to produce new securities trading legislation. She said she assumed “they will have it soon”.

She also called for tougher penalties for lawmakers who flout existing rules on reporting stock ownership and trading under a 2012 law called the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.

“What we’re trying to build is consensus,” she said.

The conclusion of such an agreement could prove delicate. Existing bills differ on whether spouses and family members should also be prohibited from owning and trading individual shares, whether capital gains taxes on forced sales of shares should be deferred and whether the prohibition should apply to other assets such as businesses.

And some Democratic leaders have raised questions on a slippery slope. Insider trading is already illegal, and the STOCK Act prohibits members of Congress from trading on any “nonpublic information derived from” their position. This law also requires the disclosure of most stock transactions, although Ms Pelosi noted that this has not been an effective deterrent.

If Congress is going to go further and ban individual stock ownership outright, critics argue, then what about real estate holdings? Should a lawmaker with student loans be allowed to weigh in on loan forgiveness legislation?

But for supporters of a ban on share ownership in both parties, the imperative is “pretty simple,” as Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, put it.

“The idea that we come in and buy, sell, buy, call, that’s a bipartisan problem,” said Roy, who co-drafted legislation in 2020 with Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, who didn’t go anywhere. .

The sophisticated and lucrative professions of Ms Pelosi’s wealthy husband, Paul Pelosi, have also attracted attention, particularly from Republicans.

Ms. Spanberger conceded that some of her colleagues have suggested that a ban on stock ownership might deter capable people from running for Congress. But she expressed little sympathy.

“There are lots of jobs and millions of Americans there,” she said. “If that’s too much of a limitation, you just showed what your priorities are, and you shouldn’t be in Congress.”

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