Cantor signals go-slow approach on lawmaker stock-trading bill

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday said his conference will take a deliberate approach to legislation that would prohibit members of Congress from using knowledge they gain on the job to make equity trades.

Cantor said Republicans want to fully discuss a Democratic proposal that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to prohibit these member trades, and be sure all members have a chance to digest the bill. 

"We intend to take this issue, make sure that concerns that have been raised on both sides of the aisle are being vetted," Cantor said during a colloquy with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "We intend to do so in a deliberate manner."

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The bill to stop so-called "insider trading" by lawmakers has picked up steam since leaders in both parties were criticized in a report on CBS's "60 Minutes." 

Cantor spoke hours after coming under fierce criticism from Democrats, who accused him of holding up the bill. 

Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the sponsors of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, cited press reports that said Cantor moved to prevent the House Financial Services Committee from holding a markup of the bill, and called on Cantor to allow the markup to proceed.

"We are disappointed you requested the House Financial Services Committee postpone its scheduled markup next week," the letter said. "While we strongly support efforts to strengthen and improve the STOCK Act, those efforts should not be an excuse to hold this legislation hostage."

Cantor defended the GOP process, and said the more deliberate approach was necessary because a number of different committees share jurisdiction over the issue.

"There are many other chairmen who have jurisdiction in this matter who need to be involved in this with a full vetting, and we intend to do that," Cantor said.

Cantor said Republicans "abhor" the idea of members using non-public information to make stock trades, and said the GOP, like Democrats, want to make sure these activities are prohibited.

"Transparency is the key, because the public needs to know what their members are doing," he said.

The STOCK Act now has more than 220 cosponsors, including 75 Republicans. The bill has gained favor rapidly since the November 13 "60 Minutes" story that alleged some House leaders have profited from their non-public knowledge.

Cantor did not say whether Republicans may be favoring a Republican alternative, from House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.). The Bachus bill, H.R. 3549, would require all members of Congress to place their holdings in a blind trust, which would be managed without the consent of the member as long as they are in Congress.