The Senate on Monday voted 93-2 to move forward with the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, legislation that would prevent members of Congress from making investments and trades based on non-public information.
The bill, originally sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would ensure that existing insider trading prohibitions apply to members of Congress and staff.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scheduled the cloture vote on the motion to proceed on the bill Thursday after President Obama demanded action on the issue in his State of the Union speech.
"Members of Congress and their staffers have the duty to the American people," Reid said. "They may not use privileged information they get on the job to personally profit. [This bill] will end any confusion over whether members of Congress can be prosecuted for the serious crime. They can be."
Several members of the Senate, including Brown, Gillibrand and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), spoke in favor of the bill in the hour before the vote on Monday, but no senators spoke against it or seemed interested in slowing its progress. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C) were the only members to oppose it.
The STOCK Act saw a surge of support late last year when an investigation done by "60 Minutes" raised questions about profitable trades made by several high-ranking members of Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Both lawmakers denied making trades based on inside information.
Brown said from the floor on Monday the "60 Minutes" investigation had “shocked” him.
"I was shocked by this report, I think we all were," Brown said. "[M]embers of Congress should not be lining their pockets on insider information. Serving our country is a privilege. I believe we must level the playing field and show the American people that the United States Congress does not consider itself to be above laws that apply to everyone else.”
The White House announced its support for the Senate bill on Monday.
The bill “will help to limit the corrosive influence of money in politics and ensure that the Congress is playing by the same set of rules as everyone else," read the Statement of Administration Policy released by the White House. “[I]t is an important first step to prevent Members of Congress from profiting from their positions."
Senate consideration of the bill comes as House Republicans are still deliberating on how to proceed with legislation, H.R. 3549, that would have a similar effect which was penned by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.)