Feb 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Warren and Daines team up on bipartisan stock ban

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Michael Renynolds/Pool/AFP, Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) are teaming up to file a stock-ban bill, a bipartisan pairing that's part of a building movement to act on a potential conflict of interest.

Why it matters: The widening interest is a sign the issue has moved from being a progressive talking point to a mainstream cause championed even by some former investment chiefs. The introduction of the first bipartisan bill in the Senate is a step toward overcoming a potential filibuster.

Driving the news: Warren and Daines have reached a deal on a bill banning lawmakers and their spouses from owning and trading individual stocks, people familiar with the conversations told Axios.

  • It would go a step further than other bills requiring members of Congress to place their stocks in a blind trust.
  • Members would still be able to own stock included in widely held and diversified vehicles such as mutual funds.

Word of the bipartisan bill comes a day after Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told Axios he'll "absolutely" engage with Democrats on the issue.

  • "I'm meeting with Sen. [Jeff] Merkley (D-Ore.) to look at his bill, and I'll look at others, as well," Romney said.
  • "Clearly, elected members of Congress — either senators or congresspeople — shouldn't be trading stocks," the former venture capitalist added.

Meanwhile, eight Democratic senators — including a member of party leadership, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — have lined up behind legislation proposed by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Axios is told.

  • Besides Murray, the others are Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
  • The Ossoff/Kelly bill would require members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children to place their stock portfolios into a blind trust.
  • Merkley's bill doesn't go as far; it would allow members of Congress and their senior staff to hold on to their assets but prohibit them from buying and selling while in office.

Several other Republicans support limits on stock trading, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch Connell told reporters Tuesday he'd consider legislation and "see what may be appropriate."

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced his own bill after talks between his and Ossoff's staffs fizzled out last month, as Axios reported.
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also reintroduced a sweeping ethics package that includes banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks.
  • And Kelly's potential Republican opponent, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, has also called for a ban.

But, but, but: Senate Democrats are still a ways from getting the necessary 10 Republicans on board to pass major legislation in a 50-50 chamber.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders themselves have been slow to take up the issue, despite reported interest from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
  • More than two dozen House members from both sides of the aisle have also called for action.

The big picture: Just weeks after the debate reignited in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked members to form a working group with the goal of bringing a congressional stock-trading ban to the floor, as Insider reported.

  • The STOCK Act, which bans stock trades by members based on inside information, became law in 2012 — after passing on a bipartisan basis.
  • It later was watered down and is rarely enforced today.
  • In recent years, Warren has introduced and reintroduced an anti-corruption package that included a ban on stock trading.
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