House and Senate Republicans over the last few weeks have stepped up their support for a Democratic bill that would prohibit members of Congress from making stock, swaps and commodity trades based on non-public information they are exposed to while doing their jobs.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) introduced his bill — the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act — back in March. But a mid-November story on "60 Minutes" alleging that some House members are able to profit from their inside information has sparked a renewed interest in the bill in both the House and Senate.
The House bill, H.R. 1148, now has 100 co-sponsors, including 19 Republicans, 18 of which added their names after the Nov. 13 "60 Minutes" report. Before that report, the bill had just 10 co-sponsors, only one of which was Republican.
In the wake of the report, House leaders have made no sign that they would be willing to consider the bill. Just before Thanksgiving, Walz implored House GOP leaders to let the bill come up for a vote on the House floor.
"Unlike other Americans, members of Congress and their staffs are not held legally responsible for profiting from nonpublic information they gain in their official positions," he said on Nov. 15. "It's outrageous. When I came to Congress several years ago, I couldn't believe it wasn't already a law."
Later that week, Walz again asked for a vote, and said failing to move on the bill would only promote the ongoing distrust of Congress.
"How do we expect the public to take us seriously about anything we do when there is the belief that people here are enriching themselves from the knowledge they gain on the job?" he asked. "Even the perception of wrongdoing undermines the trust in the democracy."
The "60 Minutes" report alleged that House leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), used non-public information to inform stock trades. These members dismissed the idea that they are making day-to-day trades.
The report also said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) participated in a Visa IPO during her stint as as House Speaker. But Pelosi rejected the idea that there were any conflicts of interest that should have barred her from these activities.