No doubt some members of Congress who applauded one comment by President Barack Obama on Tuesday night did so reluctantly. But the president was absolutely right.
At one point in his State of the Union speech, Obama asked lawmakers to "send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress ..."
He referred to a longstanding ethics problem, that of members of Congress buying or selling stock because they have advance knowledge of how companies will be affected by legislation. In fact, there is the possibility some votes on bills are affected by lawmakers' desire to make killings in the market.
Obama is right: Such conflicts of interest should be eliminated - now.
Rep. Tim Walz has been spearheading the effort to pass such legislation. He and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter reintroduced the STOCK Act last March. The bill would prevent members of Congress, their employees and members of the Administration from profiting from the non-public information they obtain through their positions in Congress. Support for the act, which has had little traction over the years, jumped with an eye-opening "60 Minutes" report, and the president's public support should raise more support. Walz reported this week the act has 248 co-sponsors.
Members of Congress are privy to all kinds of information, from defense contracts to business regulations and legal actions, that could be used or sold for profit. Insider trading is illegal in the private sector, it should be illegal in Congress as well.