By Peter Schroeder - 02/08/12 01:40 AM EST
Popular legislation to curb insider trading by lawmakers took on a contentious and partisan edge Tuesday, with Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor coming under attack.
Republicans are preparing an amendment labeled the “Pelosi provision” that seeks to put a spotlight on Pelosi, the former Democratic Speaker from California, according to a House GOP aide.
Separately, the original two Democratic sponsors of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act accused Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, of hijacking their bill and trying to weaken it for the benefit of K and Wall streets.
The Senate version of the bill moved through the upper chamber easily last week on a 96-3 vote, with members of both parties rushing to prove their good-government bona fides.
The GOP’s Pelosi provision would bar members of Congress, their staffs and executive-branch employees from enjoying special access to initial public offerings.
The amendment is inspired by a “60 Minutes” report that gave the STOCK Act its momentum. It suggested Pelosi and her husband profited from an initial public offering from Visa at the same time Congress was considering new regulations on the credit card industry. The report also took aim at Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other members.
Pelosi and her staff have defended her and her husband’s actions while noting she has been a tough critic of the credit card industry.
On Tuesday, a Pelosi aide said the IPO consisted of hundreds of millions of shares and dozens of banks, and that the Pelosis purchased only a portion of their holdings in the company at the initial price.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, would not comment on the measure targeting his boss, but offered his own jab at Cantor: “We look forward to reviewing the text of the bill Leader Cantor is writing in secret,” he said.
Cantor, whom Democrats said tried to slow work on the STOCK Act earlier this year, is the chief target of Pelosi’s party.
Democrats railed against Cantor for holding the bill up, and Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) on Tuesday claimed Cantor was weakening their bill while refusing to consult with them.
“We are doing an insider-trading bill with insiders behind closed doors not sharing with us,” complained Walz, who along with Slaughter was an original sponsor of the bill. “Bring this dang thing out in the open.”
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested Tuesday that Cantor is trying to take credit for the legislation originally offered by Democrats.
“I don’t know why they don’t simply take it from the table, put it on the floor and pass it,” he told reporters. “My suspicion is they don’t want Tim Walz to get credit for it.”
Slaughter and Walz specifically accused Cantor of seeking to weaken the bill by trimming provisions pertaining to “political intelligence” firms, a growing industry that sell inside information on Congress to financial firms looking to reap a windfall.
Under their original bill, such firms would be required to register with Congress in a similar fashion to lobbyists, which has left some K Street firms grumbling.
“They want to change it if they can,” said Slaughter. “Maybe Cantor wants to change it for his friends, I don’t know.”
Cantor has said publicly he is supportive of the legislation and wants to strengthen it and broaden it, in particular by applying the same disclosures and restrictions to executive-branch employees.
Late Tuesday, Cantor appeared to offer a bipartisan olive branch of sorts, giving a nod to the work of the original authors of the bill in a statement on the legislation.
"Members from both sides of the aisle have worked hard on this issue, specifically Representatives Tim Walz and Louise Slaughter, and they deserve credit for their efforts," he said. "After years of work, it’s about time their efforts resulted in a law.”
But the Democrats made clear Tuesday that they do not trust Cantor on this front.
“I think ‘strengthening’ is a euphemism for ‘weakening,’ ” said Slaughter.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have called on the GOP to bring up the original legislation and pass it as is, and to deal with differences with the Senate bill in a conference committee.
Slaughter and Walz have offered a discharge petition that seeks to force a vote on their bill. To win a vote, the two lawmakers must get a majority of House lawmakers to sign their petition. A majority of the House, including 99 Republicans, are now co-sponsors of the bill.
“Go home and tell people that you decided to hold this up ... and find out what happens,” Walz said earlier this month.
But once again, the support for that initiative has broken down largely on partisan lines. Of the 170 signatures on the petition as of Tuesday, just two were Republicans — Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Brian Bilbray (Calif.).