WASHINGTON -- The Senate advanced a bill Monday that aims to curb potential insider trading by Congress.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or Stock Act, easily passed a procedural vote 93 to 2, clearing the way for a debate and amendment process that insiders said they expected would lead to passage by week's end.
The measure would require members of Congress and high-ranking staffers and federal employees to abide by insider trading rules that apply to everyone, and also would require members of Congress and top aides to report significant financial transactions within 30 days.
"The American people need to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a lead sponsor. "They also deserve to know that their lawmakers' only interest is what's best for the country, not their own financial interest."
"This is a measure the American people are clamoring for," said Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), marking bipartisan support for the bill.
The House had been set to consider a similar bill last month, but Majority Leader Eric Cantor had the measure pulled from the Financial Serrvices Committee that was about to start work on it.
The Virginia Republican's office said Cantor was concerned because the measure was also being considered by five other committees, risking conflicts. Cantor also thought the bill should apply to the White House, his spokeswoman said.
"Building upon the Senate bill, this common-sense proposal will not only deal with insider trading of stocks, but also prevent all federal officials and employees from using insider information for profit in other areas in a constitutionally sound way," said Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon. "As Leader Cantor has said, he strongly supports increased disclosure to prevent any sense of impropriety and ensure the public’s confidence and trust in our elected officials.”
Cantor plans to move an expanded version of the Stock Act through the House in February, Fallon said.
Some of the Senate's Iead sponsors said they were dubious of the effort in the House.
"We're not opposed to working with folks to get the very best piece of legislation," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) "We hope that it's not going to be political gamesmanship in a presidential year."
The senators suggested Cantor would be better off keeping the measure tightly focused, then offering a new measure if he thinks more of the government should be covered.
"If Eric Cantor wants to lead another piece of legislation, God bless him," said Gillibrand.
The process of getting the bill passed in the Senate appeared straightforward, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised an open amendment process, and sponsors from both parties appealed for members to keep their offerings tightly focused on the bill's purpose.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, compared it to the Dr. Seuss story, "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose."
"I don't know if you remember him, but he was a very good-natured moose," Lieberman said on the Seante floor. "One by one through the pages of the book, as Dr. Seuss records it, other animals in the forest want to lodge in his enormous antlers, and he welcomes them until finally there is too much there, and his antlers fall off and they all fall to the ground.
"We don't want this wonderful bill ... to be so loaded up that it falls by the wayside, like Thidwick's antlers," Lieberman said.
Brown was impressed with the comparison. "You know, you," he said, smiling broadly. "I love hearing your stories. That's why I'm reading your book, all right? Because of your knowledge and your history and the way you can weave things back and forth. that's a very good analogy. I too have concerns."
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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