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Senate Passes STOCK Act

Updated: 6:37 p.m.

The Senate passed the STOCK Act on a 96-3 vote this evening after a surprisingly open amendment process forced lawmakers to take stands on a series of ethical restrictions and earmarks.

The bill, which clarifies that Members of Congress are subject to bans on insider trading, engendered a broader debate over public ethics, including issues such as whether lawmakers should own stocks at all, given their ability to affect individual companies.

President Barack Obama urged the House to pass the legislation, which he pushed in his State of the Union address last week. “I will sign it right away,” he said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House would review the Senate bill, adding he intended to bring it to the floor next week.

Obama, however, said he wanted the bill to go further than it did.

“While this is an important step to rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people, there is much more work to be done, like prohibiting elected officials from owning stocks in industries they impact, and prohibiting people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress from lobbying Congress, an idea that has bipartisan support outside of Washington,” the president said. “These are straightforward proposals that will help eliminate the corrosive influence of money in politics.”

An amendment by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) forcing divestiture of stock holdings unless they are placed in a blind trust failed, 26-73. And an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) forcing divestiture by many federal officials failed 48-51.

But the Senate agreed to extend the bill’s broader stock transaction reporting requirements to executive branch officials subject to Senate confirmation, a key demand of Republican lawmakers.

A permanent ban on earmarks failed after Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) announced his panel would ban earmarks for another year.

And an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requiring lobbyist disclosures for political intelligence activities was adopted 60-39. The amendment would require disclosure of political intelligence activities under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

The Senate also adopted an amendment by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) tightening laws against public corruption, including a ban on gifts to public officials of more than $1,000 in value and restoring the “honest services fraud” statute that the Supreme Court restricted in 2010.

A Sense of the Senate amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) backing term limits for Congress received just 24 yes votes.

Lawmakers also agreed to new restrictions on bonuses for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives.

The Senate also adopted an amendment requiring lawmakers and top executive branch officials to disclose their mortgage terms, a response to the Countrywide scandal in which several lawmakers received VIP loans.

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