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Democratic Leaders Will Likely Delay Vote on Stock Ban Until After the Election

Proponents of the legislation have suggested that Democratic leaders are delaying the bill because they oppose it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on September 22, 2022.

A vote on the long-awaited — and some say direly needed — bill to ban members of Congress from being able to trade individual stocks will likely be delayed until at least after the midterm election in November, sources within House Democratic leadership say, drawing frustration from advocates who have been pushing for the bill to come to a vote for months.

According to Punchbowl News, some sources say that there is “very little chance” that the bill, kept secret by Democratic leadership for months and released this week, will come to a vote before the election.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) has said that it’s likely the bill will not come to a vote this week, missing the estimated time frame for a vote that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) set in a press conference last week. Hoyer is under fire for indicating that he is opposed to the proposal in recent meetings.

Proponents of the legislation have been urging House leaders to bring the bill to a vote since members began introducing their own versions of the proposal early this year. But Democrats had delayed progress on the legislation, despite rare bipartisan support for the proposal, and had even kept the contents of the proposal hidden from lawmakers advocating for the bill until this week.

Now that the text of the legislation has been released, Democratic leaders are facing criticism yet again over elements of the bill that ethics experts say make the bill both overly broad and too weak in its enforcement, either dooming the legislation from the start or making it effectively useless.

In its current form, the bill would ban not only members of Congress but also Supreme Court justices and high-level congressional and executive officials from trading stocks, covering a wider swath of officials than most proposals introduced by lawmakers throughout this year.

Ethics experts say that the judiciary and executive branches should also be barred from trading individual stocks, as the practice brings up potential conflicts of interest. But Project on Government Oversight Senior Ethics Fellow Walter Shaub pointed out on Twitter that including such officials in the ban would be a “poison pill” for the bill, risking Republican opposition and likely dooming its chances in the Senate.

Meanwhile, government watchdogs are also taking issue with the meat of the bill: the mechanism by which government officials would hand off control over their stock portfolios.

The bill would require lawmakers to either divest from their stocks or place them into a blind trust — but the blind trust wouldn’t have to follow existing rules for a blind trust, allowing lawmakers to create a “fake” blind trust like the one used by former President Donald Trump, Shaub said on Twitter.

“Pelosi’s bill would eliminate all of these requirements by authorizing each ethics office to allow anything they want and call it a blind trust. Literally anything,” Shaub wrote in a Twitter thread railing against the bill on Tuesday. With no rules for what qualifies as a blind trust, experts say that lawmakers could essentially still trade stocks, but do so even more secretively than before.

“There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about throwing out the current strict uniform standard for blind trusts across the government,” Shaub continued. “For one thing, the House and Senate ethics committees are notoriously loose. They’ve spent the last ten years not enforcing the STOCK Act.”

Proponents of the stock ban have suggested that Democratic leaders may have purposefully introduced a bill that is far from what other lawmakers have proposed because they oppose it.

Pelosi, whose husband is a prolific stock trader, has previously expressed her opposition to the proposal. Hoyer indicated in meetings recently that he is intending on voting against the bill when it comes to the floor. And House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-California), who wrote the bill, had reportedly cooled on the idea after the committee held a hearing on it earlier this year.

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