A bipartisan movement to ban members of Congress from trading stocks did not pass the House of Representatives this week, assuring that no motion shall be taken on the problem until after the midterm elections — if in any respect.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to pass a bill before members left for a lengthy recess. But some in her own party are actually accusing her of producing repeated delays and unnecessary roadblocks.
Pelosi, who previously opposed a prohibition on congressional stock trading, surprised many who’ve been pushing for a ban by introducing her own lengthy ethics bill earlier this week.
Pelosi’s bill looks like an expansive proposal on its face. It might bar virtually all senior government officials from trading stocks, not only those in Congress.
Nevertheless it incorporates wide loopholes which have infuriated ethics watchdogs, and critics said expanding the proposed ban to the manager and judiciary branches seems designed to attract recent opposition and slow its probabilities of passing.
Sure enough, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who decides which bills go to a vote, told reporters Tuesday that the proposal had arrived too late and introduced too many recent issues for him to schedule a vote before the November midterms.
The bill was also written without input from many key lawmakers in the continuing push to ban congressional stock trades, in line with good-government groups and members of Congress.
One in all those members, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who introduced a ban with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in January 2021, strafed Hoyer and Pelosi on Friday for introducing “a kitchen-sink package that they knew would fail.”
“Absolutely this was a bill designed to not pass.”
– Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, manager of presidency affairs on the Project on Government Oversight
Watchdogs echoed her suspicions that Pelosi and Hoyer were attempting to snuff out any likelihood of reform.
“Absolutely this was a bill designed to not pass,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, manager of presidency affairs on the Project on Government Oversight. “Pelosi is excellent at her job when she desires to get something done. … The approach they took was not designed to get anything done. It was designed to say, ‘We tried.’”
Among the many issues critics highlighted is the indisputable fact that the bill would obliterate the high standard for blind trusts in favor of an ordinary that will allow government officials to hide their assets from the general public.
“This bill is the equivalent of a wrecking ball for the manager branch ethics program,” said Walter Shaub, a senior ethics fellow on the Project on Government Oversight who ran the U.S. Office of Government Ethics until he publicly clashed with former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Parts of the bill coping with the judiciary are written poorly, other critics said, including language that’s likely unconstitutional.
Gabe Roth, the manager director of Fix the Court, a bunch that supports sweeping ethics reform of the judiciary, said extending the bill to federal judges could provoke the opposition of one of the crucial powerful lobbying groups within the Capitol: the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for the federal courts.
“It’s just inviting recent resistance once we know the issue is most acute within the legislative branch,” he said.
What’s more, Congress has already passed a part of a package to reform ethics requirements for federal judges. A second bill, which might expand those reforms to the Supreme Court, remains to be awaiting a vote.
On Friday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a co-author of those judicial reforms, went on Twitter to needle House leadership about bringing the Supreme Court ethics bill to a vote.
Pelosi shot back Friday against accusations that her bill was designed to fail, saying her proposal had taken Spanberger’s proposed reforms and “made the bill stronger.”
“Regardless of the members wish to do, I fully support,” she said.
But good-government groups are accepting that a congressional stock ban has little hope under the present Congress.
Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics on the Campaign Legal Center, said the explanation why many members of Congress don’t want the ban is straightforward: “It might please the voters but hurt their wallets.”
Jonathan Nicholson contributed reporting.