Bloomberg: Congress Is Running Out of Time for Lawmaker Stock Trade Ban

BLOOMBERG, JARRELL DILLARD AND ZACH C. COHEN

Senate Democrats negotiating a bill that would ban stock trading by members of Congress say they’re running out of time to pass a measure before November’s midterm elections become lawmakers’ main focus.

“If we don’t succeed in getting a bill that we can get 60 people to support and get it kind of rolling soon, we’re just going to miss the window,” Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, one of the Democrats leading the effort, said in an interview Tuesday.

Limiting member stock trading has bipartisan support in Congress, but lawmakers differ on the approach. A group of Senate Democrats have been working to merge elements of multiple proposals before legislating in Washington all but ends by August.

Discussions continued over Congress’s recent two-week break, but still unresolved is whether members should be able to hold blind trusts and what restrictions would apply to spouses and other family members, Merkley said.

Merkley is working with Senators Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona, sponsors of the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which would require members of Congress and their families to place their stock portfolios in blind trusts.

“I am continuing my efforts to build and focus support for necessary legislation,” Ossoff said in an interview on Monday. “Senator Kelly and I have offered what we think is a very strong bill. There are several other proposals and I hope we can move forward and get something to the floor.”

The House is moving on a separate track, with the Committee on House Administration looking at options for potentially limiting trading and at enforcement of current rules, which requires lawmakers to disclose trades.

Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat and sponsor of a stock trading proposal in the House, said voters have made clear they want action to prevent members of Congress and their spouses from buying and selling individual stocks.

“Hand-waving gestures, empty promises, and delay tactics masquerading as good-faith hearings simply will not cut it,” she said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Ossoff said in interview Tuesday he’s worried their window of opportunity is closing.

The Senate group has been focused on combining elements of Ossoff’s bill with Merkley’s Ban Conflicted Trading Act, which would ban members and senior staff from trading stocks and other investments while in office, along with proposals from other senators.

“People have passionate feelings with some very different perspectives,” Merkley said. “When it involves families, when it involves personal finances. We’re trying to iron those out. I remain optimistic, but I’m very concerned about this short period of time.”

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