WASHINGTON -- The No. 2 House Republican on Thursday defended his request to indefinitely delay a committee vote on legislation to ban insider trading by lawmakers, saying the issue needs to be approached "in a deliberate manner."
"This is an issue of extreme import for the confidence of the public toward this institution," Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said on the House floor.
Cantor said lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns about the bill "not being brought up in a vetted way."
Earlier Thursday, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., accused Cantor of trying to kill her bill — called the STOCK (Stop Trading on Insider Knowledge) Act — by asking the House Financial Services Committee to cancel a planned Dec. 14 markup.
"What I know is that a bill I worked on for six years was on its way to markup and suddenly it wasn't," Slaughter said, noting that her colleagues have had plenty of time to review it.
But Slaughter's proposal, which she introduced in 2006, had received very little attention until 60 Minutes aired a broadcast last month on the issue of insider trading by members of Congress.
Since then, the STOCK Act has gained 220 bipartisan cosponsors in the House — two more than the 218 needed for a majority. Two Republican House freshmen have introduced similar bills. And two versions are pending in the Senate.
Legal experts who testified at a Financial Services Committee hearing on the bill Tuesday offered suggestions for modifying its language and said they would be available to offer technical expertise during the drafting process.
A Senate committee plans to mark up its version of the bill on Wednesday.
Slaughter joined three other sponsors of the House bill at a news conference Thursday urging Cantor to rebuild public trust in Congress by bringing the bill to the House floor before the year-end congressional recess.
"If this thing doesn't move and doesn't happen, hepatitis will be more popular than the U.S. Congress, I can guarantee you that," said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said he shares the sentiments of people across the country: "I am frustrated with the process in Washington."