Dems try to force vote on STOCK Act

House Democrats are attempting to circumvent GOP leadership and force a vote on legislation banning insider trading by members of Congress.

Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) announced Wednesday that they will file a discharge petition in the House to advance their legislation targeting the practice, known as the STOCK Act.

Under House rules, lawmakers can pursue a discharge petition for legislation that has been pending before a committee for 30 legislative days. If a majority of the House sign the petition, the bill can immediately advance to the House floor for consideration.

In announcing the move Wednesday, Slaughter and Walz dared lawmakers to withhold their support.

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Go home and tell people that you decided to hold this up ... and find out what happens, said Walz. The fear of not moving this thing will outweigh the desire that many legislators have to attach things and make this perfect.

The push to crack down on lawmakers profiting on private information obtained during public service has become a popular political issue with both parties, with the two sides jockeying for an advantage on the issue.

The STOCK Act was under consideration in the House last year, but was slowed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who said he wished to handle the bill in a deliberate manner. He told reporters Tuesday that he wants the Senate to strengthen the version of the bill its considering, and said he plans to offer an expanded version sometime this month.

But Slaughter and Walz said Cantor is simply trying to block their bill.

Its time for Leader Cantor to end the partisan games and bring this bill to the floor, Slaughter said.

While the bill pushed by Slaughter and Walz is co-sponsored by a majority of the House, GOP lawmakers will have to choose between signing the petition or backing the approach favored by Cantor.

Walz indicated that while Cantor said he planned to bring forward a strengthened bill on the issue, he did not necessarily believe it would happen.

I want to hope for the best, but Im planning for the worst, he said.

A majority of House lawmakers, including 92 Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors of the STOCK Act. A similar version of the legislation is currently being considered on the Senate floor, and the White House said it strongly supports that version. President Obama latched on to the issue during his State of the Union address, vowing to promptly sign any legislation curbing such trading that is passed by Congress.

Both bills would explicitly prohibit members from making financial trades based on private information. The Senate version would require lawmakers to disclose any financial trades within 30 days, while the House version would require disclosures after 90 days of any trades of more than $1,000. 

But the House bill also requires firms that specialize in political intelligence to register with the House and Senate in a similar fashion to lobbyists, whereas the Senate version simply requires a study of the political intelligence industry.

— This story was updated at 3:17 p.m.