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Push to ban lawmakers from stock trading gets Pelosi’s nod

The speaker said Democrats are crafting legislation that would ban lawmakers from buying and selling stocks while in office.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Calling on Democrats to study legislation that would ban lawmakers from trading stocks during their time in office, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday marked an about-face from her previous and public opposition to the idea.

Back in December, Pelosi responded to questions about her support for stock trading by noting that lawmakers should be able to participate in the free market.

Demonstrating a decisive shift in a press conference Wednesday morning, however, Pelosi announced an order for the House Administration Committee to review legislation on the issue being worked on by members of her party.

Scrutiny of politicians' financial portfolios took new heights during the pandemic, fueled by timely stock trades that several lawmakers made after closed-door briefings in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Along with Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California, three Republicans, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina and Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, all faced anticlimactic investigations into stocks they offloaded after a classified Covid-19 briefing at the start of the pandemic. The investigation of Burr lasted the longest but sputtered out this past January.

While the 2012 Stock Act placed some regulations on Congress members' financial dealings, requiring disclosures and banning the use of insider information in trading, the act is rarely enforced and when it is, sanctions are often minimal.

In addition to new reforms, Pelosi said any legislation should include stronger fines for anyone found in violation of the Stock Act.

Pelosi herself has been the target of some public criticism. Although she does not hold stocks herself, her husband is a venture capitalist and investor with millions invested in the stock market.

The speaker made clear that she supports reform that would not only target lawmakers, but the judiciary as well.

"It has to be government-wide," Pelosi said. "The third branch of government, the judiciary, has no reporting. The Supreme Court has no disclosure, it has no reporting of stock transactions and it makes important decisions every day. I do believe in the integrity of people in public service, I want the public to have that understanding. We have to do this to deter something that we see as a problem, but it is a confidence issue and if that's what the members want to do, then that's what we will do."

Pelosi's support comes as more than two dozen lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called on congressional leadership to back reform.

While there has been some bipartisan support behind the push for sanctions on stock trading among lawmakers, there are several bills and proposals floating around Congress about how to do so.

Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, and Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat from Arizona, introduced legislation that would require lawmakers and family member to put stocks in a blind trust, where an independent trustee would be responsible for selling and buying on the market.

This measure has drawn support from Representative Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, who co-sponsored a similar proposal with Democrat Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia early last year.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill similar to the Ossoff0Kelly proposal, but that would not apply to lawmakers' spouses or dependents.

Some Democrats are calling for stricter reforms that would ban lawmakers and their spouses from owning or trading individual stocks at all, only allowing them to hold diversified portfolios such as mutual funds.

Early Wednesday, Representative Andy Kim, a Democrat from New Jersey introduced a bill that would go beyond previous proposals, banning individual stock ownership among members of Congress, the executive and federal judges.

Democrats will need to sort through these proposals to draft legislation they can get support for in the 50-50 Senate.

"What we're trying to build is consensus," Pelosi said, noting that Democrats will announce a united proposal "pretty soon."

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