House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he is closely monitoring progress on the STOCK Act as the bill moves through the Senate this week, and depending on the final product the Senate passes, the House will also pass legislation to address insider trading by members of Congress and the federal government.
The issue has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill over the past few months following news reports that some members may have profited from stock transactions that could have been informed by their positions in Congress. Today Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said the American people "need to know that members of Congress are living under the same rules that they are."
"There's been a lot of talk about fairness over the last several months, certainly as the political campaign heats up, and I can tell you there is a sense among people in this country that they don't have a fair shot when they see things that have transpired," Cantor, R-Va., said. "It is unacceptable for anyone - any member of Congress, anybody affiliated with this level of government or any other, to profit from insider information, or from information that is not available to the public. Period."
Cantor says that he is hopeful the Senate will make improvements to the bill, which is formally called the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. "If the Senate produces a bill that we believe is strengthened and something that is workable, that certainly will be something well-received by the House," he said. "If it does not, it is my intention to move a bill, to bring a bill to the floor in February."
Cantor complained that the current make-up of the Senate's legislation "does not adequately cover those connected with the federal government in the executive branch" who are privy to information that could be used to personally benefit those individuals. "We're looking at ways that hopefully the Senate can work on that language, strengthen the language so that the same rules apply to executive branch personnel that have access to that type of information," he said.
Cantor dismissed critics who contend that congressional action is a ploy to score a popular, politically advantageous vote. He said he thinks there is "activity that exists that could certainly be characterized in a negative light and lend itself to the public's believing that their elected representatives are operating in a way that benefit themselves."
He also said that for years he has been concerned by a "lack of timeliness" in the release of financial disclosure forms, which are reported on an annual basis. One element of the legislation would require members of Congress and staff to disclose any stock transactions within 30 days.
"If you've got to wait a year to know what your elected representatives are doing from a financial transactions standpoint, I don't think that that is a timely enough schedule for the members of the public to realize that right to know," Cantor said. "All of this should be geared toward trying to ensure the public that the trust that they put in Washington has not been violated." The Senate approved a cloture vote on the measure on Monday, opening up the opportunity to debate amendments as the upper chamber composes the final legislative language. A vote in the Senate is expected later this week.