WASHINGTON -- A weakened version of the STOCK Act banning insider trading by members of Congress and the administration passed the House Thursday without curbs on "political intelligence" or new clean-government rules.
The legislation would make it clear that lawmakers and key staffers are bound by the insider trading laws that affect everyone. The House bill also adds a provision to bar lawmakers from participating in IPOs. The bill passed 417 to 2.
But the House bill cut a provision that was in the Senate version requiring people who collect and trade so-called political intelligence -- information from government that can move markets and stock prices -- to register just like lobbyists if they want to talk with covered officials in Congress and the executive branch so that the public knows who they are and what they're doing.
It also cut a provision that cracks down on officials guilty of taking actions on the job to benefit themselves.
Republican sponsors of those provisions in the Senate -- especially Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- were highly critical of the changes, with Grassley calling them "astonishing and extremely disappointing."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) defended the revisions, saying his work on the legislation -- which was done in secret and ignored another version of the House bill that had nearly 300 co-sponsors -- strengthened the measure. He singled out the political intelligence provision.
"I think that is a provision that raises an awful lot of questions. I think there's a lot of discussion and debate about who and what would qualify and fall under the suggested language that came from the Senate," Cantor said, adding that political intelligence doesn't directly concern lawmakers since they are not the ones trading in the intelligence. "The political intelligence piece is outside of this body, and we're talking about us and the perception that has gathered around our conduct."
"It's incumbent upon each of us to start to restore the trust between the people and their elected representatives," Cantor asserted. "That is what the STOCK Act is all about."
But House Democrats, pointing to bipartisan disappointment in the Senate, took Cantor to task, even as they backed the bill in order to move it forward to a conference conference with the Senate, in which the differences could be worked out.
"It just raises a question to me as to if it is so important, and it certainly is, why we could not have worked in a more bipartisan fashion either to accept the Senate bill ... or to take up [the existing House bill]," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
"Instead, secretly, the Republicans brought a much-diminished bill to the floor," Pelosi said. She added, "Senator Grassley's remarks are stunning, and a stunning indictment of the House Republicans."
If any version of the STOCK Act is to pass, House and Senate leaders must now appoint a conference committee; they are expected to do so.
The article has been updated to reflect the final vote tally.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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