A bipartisan group of more than 20 lawmakers is calling on the House Administration Committee to mark up legislation before the August break that would ban members from trading stocks.
The group, led by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., sent a letter Thursday to committee Chair Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and ranking member Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y., urging action as scrutiny on trading increases.
“It is a simple, straightforward and profoundly important request that we all agree on,” Neguse said at a news conference in support of the letter Thursday afternoon.
He was joined by Republicans Matt Rosendale of Montana, Ken Buck of Colorado and more than a handful of House Democrats, all of whom have either introduced or co-sponsored legislation to limit members’ ability to trade on information gleaned from their work in Congress.
There have been at least six House proposals introduced this Congress to ban or restrict stock trading and at least two in the Senate.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., introduced a bipartisan, bicameral proposal in April that would bar members, their spouses and dependent children from owning or trading individual stocks, securities, commodities or futures.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., partnered with Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, in January on a proposal to eradicate stock trading by members of Congress. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., introduced a resolution to address the issue. And the unlikely pairing of progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Freedom Caucus member Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., joined others on another proposal in late April.
Those disparate plans would need to be parsed, which Neguse said is the “challenge that we propose to the committee.”
“There are nuances, every proposal is different … but the differences pale in comparison to the commonality,” Neguse said. “And the question now is before the chairman of the House Administration Committee and the ranking member to design a process in which they can mark up a piece of legislation.”
The push to restrict members’ stock activity has gained momentum after reports of dubious trades ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center found that dozens of House and Senate members made over 1,000 financial transactions between February and early April 2020 after receiving closed-door briefings on the burgeoning public health crisis. The Justice Department investigated the trading activity of several senators, though those cases were all ultimately dropped.
Convention of States Action, a conservative advocacy group, found in a 2022 poll that 76 percent of voters, including 70 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Republicans, believe members of Congress should not be able to trade stocks while in office.
“We continue to see story after story hit the headlines of members of Congress who bought and sold stock related to the Silicon Valley Bank Collapse. Before that, it was the invasion of Ukraine. Before that, it was COVID,” Spanberger said at the news conference. “Frankly speaking, whether there was any ill intention or not, the American people think it’s outrageous.”
Both Steil and Morelle have expressed some interest in exploring the issue.
“I’m really excited about this topic,” Steil said at a March House Administration Member Day hearing at which several lawmakers raised the issue. “I think one of the big concerns is the appearance of impropriety that exists among the American public.”
At a Thursday morning House Administration hearing on campaign finance reform and donor disclosure, Morelle raised the issue, stressing the need for transparency.
“There’s also work to be done to advance stock trading reform and the need to pass reforms that strengthen disclosure around conflicts of interest in our own House and in the courts – transparency measures that inspire confidence in voters and confidence in the American public,” he said.