OPIOID SERIES:

STOCK Act now makes senators squirm

Senators are now squirming over fast-moving and supposedly non-controversial legislation aimed at barring lawmakers from making insider stock trades.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which cleared a procedural hurdle this week on a 93-2 vote, has become a magnet for amendments that could have significant impact on the power and perks lawmakers have enjoyed for decades.

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Specifically, some senior senators are bristling at the prospect of losing pensions or future jobs on K Street.

The activist push for strict new regulations, well beyond what authors included in the underlying legislation, has come mostly from junior lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“It’s one of these things that turns into a bit of a feeding frenzy,” said Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ariz.). 

One particularly troublesome amendment, as far as members of the upper chamber are concerned, comes from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ky.), who has proposed that lawmakers who become lobbyists lose their generous federal pensions. 

“The language in this amendment is extraordinarily broad,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (Maine), a senior member of the GOP conference and a sponsor of the STOCK Act. “The definition of remuneration includes salaries, any payments for services not otherwise identified as salary, such as consulting fees, honoraria and paid authorship.

“As I read the language, the former member of Congress who writes a book would be in danger of forfeiting his or her pension,” she said. 

Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Lawmakers discuss Latino education gap The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight MORE (Colo.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report: 200 Days to the Election Koch network targets Tester with new six-figure ad buy Senators grill alleged robocall kingpin MORE (Mont.), two junior Democrats, on Wednesday afternoon filed an amendment that would impose a lifetime ban on members of Congress becoming lobbyists and ban staff from lobbying their former bosses for six years. Bennet and Tester have previously made the case for their bill. 

Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Dem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems MORE (Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan Merkley32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE (Ore.), Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008, respectively, have also offered a measure that has raised eyebrows. It would require all lawmakers and senior staff to divest of stocks or put their assets in blind trusts. 

Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the second-ranking Senate Republican leader, called that proposal “foolish.”

“Why should someone who has worked and accumulated some equity and is investing that in American businesses no longer be able to do that when they’re elected to public office?” he said. 

Kyl also panned Paul’s proposal to strip former lawmakers of pensions if they become lobbyists.

“What’s the point of that?” he said. Kyl, who is retiring at the end of the year, noted that former senators are already subject to a two-year post-Congress lobbying ban. 

The STOCK Act has drawn amendments that would substantially curb lawmakers’ powers. 

Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd McCaskill outpaces GOP opponent by more than million MORE (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have proposed a permanent Senate ban on earmarks, a proposal that splits the Senate GOP conference and riles Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs MORE (D-Nev.).

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has introduced an amendment expressing support for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress. 

But while many lawmakers roll their eyes over a proposed restriction they see as draconian, they acknowledge it will be difficult to vote no at a time when public opinion of Congress is at a record low and many voters are sick of the influence of lobbyists and special interests. 

“With a lot of these things, our zeal has overcome our good sense, but it’s fine with me, I’ll vote for it,” McCain said of the proposal to require lawmakers to sell stocks or put their wealth in a blind trust. 

McCain said he would also support Paul’s proposal to deny pensions to lawmakers turned lobbyists: “It’s fine. I don’t plan on being a lobbyist, so it’s OK with me.”

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee has millions of dollars in personal wealth because of his wife’s inherited fortune. He is also a household name who could earn millions more sitting on corporate boards and/or on the speaking circuit. 

But some lesser-known colleagues are privately counting on careers as lobbyists once they retire from the Senate, where the pay — capped at $174,000 for rank-and-file members — is modest by Washington’s standards. 

Former Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) are among those who have joined the K Street crowd in recent years.

Unlike most of the bills that come up for votes on the Senate floor, this one has a real chance of passing and becoming law, making votes on amendments that much tougher. 

The high stakes have created a procedural logjam that has stalled action on the Senate floor as leaders negotiate in private over which amendments will get votes. 

McCaskill said Wednesday she suspected that Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd FreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker MORE (Ky.), who are both fond of earmarks, would seek to dodge a vote on her amendment.

The STOCK Act unexpectedly gained must-pass status after Democrats raised its profile last month. President Obama called for its passage in his State of the Union address and Reid subsequently announced its consideration on the Senate floor. 

Senate Democrats on Monday criticized House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorScalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement 2018 will test the power of political nobodies Ryan signals support for McCarthy as next GOP leader MORE (R-Va.) for blocking a December markup of the STOCK Act in the House Financial Services Committee.

Cantor’s staff has emphatically denied the charge and said that House Republicans would unveil an expanded version of the legislation later this month. 

Cantor on Tuesday declared that the Senate version of the bill is too weak. 

On Wednesday, House Democrats launched a discharge petition to force Republicans to schedule a vote on the STOCK Act in the lower chamber. The legislation has 271 co-sponsors, including 92 Republicans. 

To force a vote on the House floor, 218 signatures are needed. GOP leaders in the House have strongly discouraged their members from signing discharge petitions.