WASHINGTON D.C. - The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) could see passage and signing today after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced a vote on the bill on the Senate floor.
The STOCK Act, which has been pushed by Democratic legislators Tim Walz, of Minnesota and Louise Slaughter of New York, bars lawmakers and their aides from using non-public information they learn in their political positions while trading stocks or bonds. Opponents of the practice have argued that it is equivalent to insider trading.
Walz has pressed the bill for several years, but a "60 Minutes" feature last year generated public outrage and caused a massive swell of support for it. Walz and Slaughter even received rare public praise from Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Reid brought about today's final vote in the Senate by filing a cloture petition, or simple majority vote, on Tuesday for a "motion to concur" with the U.S. House version of the bill. The action allows the Senate to vote to pass the exact same as the House bill, while prohibiting any amendments to the House bill. Walz said his communication with Reid's office informed him that Reid wanted to avoid many amendments being tacked on the bill, which could weigh down or stop its passage.
"There are only two or three more bipartisan bills like this that will pass in Senate. Since things are so slow there, it's an amendmentpalooza with bills (to get things passed)," said Walz.
The significant difference in the House version is the absence of a provision that requires political intelligence firms to register like lobbyist groups. The little-known firms operate by gathering information for lawmakers and selling it to investment groups. Supporters of the missing amendment have argued that not regulating political intelligence firms undermines the purpose of the bill. Supporters of the House version of the bill argue the bill is now stronger and easier to pass because it expands its regulation to also cover the executive branch.
Walz, who still supports regulations on political intelligence firms, said he is willing to leave the provision out to guarantee the core bill's passage. He said stopping insider trading by lawmakers and restoring public faith in the House and Senate were the original purpose in pushing the bill. Part of the compromise on the House version was a mandated congressional study of political intelligence firms within one year, which could lead to future legislation specifically dealing with the firms.
Walz said he expects it to take at approximately 72 hours before the President Barack Obama signs the bill. But, he said it could be sooner because Obama emphasized his willingness to sign the bill during his last State of the Union address.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)