Head of House progressives says stock trading ban should have been ‘a no-brainer’
The head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Monday took a shot at the Democrats’ handling of legislation that would have barred lawmakers from trading stocks, accusing party leaders of botching a process that should have been “a no-brainer” before the midterms.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) was among five House Democrats who had sponsored stock trading ban bills and were pressing party leaders to vote on the issue in September — an effort to regain some trust from voters who have lost faith in Congress, particularly with the midterm elections approaching.
Jayapal said there’s been “a lot of disappointment” that the proposal — crafted by the House Administration Committee at the request of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — was written behind closed doors and arrived just days before the House was to leave Washington last week for the long midterm recess. Some supporters of the ban have suggested the process was designed to ensure that no vote could happen in September.
“We weren’t really brought into the process. We didn’t really know what was happening with the bill. And at the end of the day, … there were things that perhaps we could have headed off at the pass, or fixed,” Jayapal said on a press call.
“The way in which it was released, and the timing of it, and the fact that it never even got to come to a vote, and the fact that some members — even of leadership — were not supportive of it, was very difficult for us,” she added.
The notion of barring congressional lawmakers from owning or trading stocks has, in the past, been wildly unpopular on Capitol Hill. But the idea gained momentum in this Congress following a series of reports revealing that scores of lawmakers have violated existing laws designed to eliminate conflicts of interest between legislators and the investments they make.
Pelosi was initially opposed to the stock ban, but altered course early this year, directing Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), head of the Administration Committee, to draft a proposal based on “where the support is in our caucus.” In the middle of September, Pelosi indicated that the talks were bearing fruit “and we believe we have a product that we can bring to the floor this month.”
Lofgren officially delivered the proposal last week, just days before the House would leave for the long recess. With little time, and some Democrats opposed to the sweeping nature of Lofgren’s bill, House lawmakers headed home without a vote.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), whose stock-ban proposal had bipartisan support, wasted no time airing her frustrations, issuing a withering statement that accused Pelosi and her team of “a failure of House leadership.”
“Rather than bring Members of Congress together who are passionate about this issue, leadership chose to ignore these voices, push them aside, and look for new ways they could string the media and the public along — and evade public criticism,” Spanberger said Friday.
Pelosi dismissed the criticism the same day, saying Lofgren’s bill incorporated provisions of several different proposals — and made it “stronger” in the process.
“Other members had ideas, too, to improve upon the bill,” Pelosi said.
“This is an interesting press release,” she added in a shot at Spanberger, “but it’s more important to write a bill.”
Jayapal on Monday stopped short of accusing Democratic leaders of devising the legislative rollout to preclude the possibility of a pre-midterm vote. But the results, she said, speak for themselves.
“I won’t speak to people’s intentions here,” Jayapal said. “But I will speak to the fact that this should have been a no-brainer in terms of being able to craft it in a way that kept our Republican support — that some of us had already managed to get on our bills — and gotten enough Democratic support to pass the House.”