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House Democratic leaders say they'll let bills to ban stock trading move forward, but some continue to defend the practice

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/19/2022 bmetzger@insider.com (Bryan Metzger)
Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Vice Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar of California hold a news conference at the US Capitol on September 21, 2021. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Vice Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar of California hold a news conference at the US Capitol on September 21, 2021. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • House Democratic leaders said that several bills to ban lawmakers from trading stocks would be allowed to move forward.
  • But Majority Leader Hoyer said his "immediate reaction" was that a ban wasn't necessary.
  • Other Democrats touted a move to possibly levy higher fines for STOCK Act violators.

House Democratic leadership signaled on Wednesday that a series of recently introduced bills to bar lawmakers from stock trading will be allowed to move forward, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expressed hesitation on the idea.

Asked by Insider about a series of proposals that have recently emerged to ban the practice, Hoyer told reporters that Congress "certainly ought to look at this issue" and that he's "pleased that the appropriate committees will look at this, and look at the legislation."

Hoyer also told reporters that he did not personally own stocks. "Let me make it very clear. I don't trade stocks. I don't have any stocks to trade," he said, adding that lawmakers shouldn't have an advantage over the public, particularly given their access to privileged information that can affect markets.

But according to Insider's exclusive, searchable database of lawmakers' personal finances — as well as disclosures that Hoyer has filed with the House Clerk — Hoyer owns up to $1,000 in Telkonet, an energy management technology provider.

But hanging over Democratic leaders' comment is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stated opposition to a stock trading ban, which she made clear when asked about Insider's Conflicted Congress investigation at a press conference last month.

Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced competing bills to ban stock trading. Ossoff's bill, which he's co-sponsoring with fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, is something of a companion to the TRUST in Congress Act put forward by Reps. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Chip Roy of Texas, which would require lawmakers to place individual stock holdings into a blind trust.

And Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota plans to introduce a bill that goes beyond blind trust, banning stock ownership entirely. "I want to start the conversation about why my leadership wants to block this legislation," Craig told Insider last week


Video: Congress set to push restrictions on lawmakers' stock trading (CNBC)

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And on Wednesday, Hoyer expressed hesitancy when it came to an outright ban, which sweeping majorities of the public support.

"There are members who do that," Hoyer said, referring to stock trading. "As long as they do so legally, without having some special advantage, my immediate reaction is that it should not be precluded."

Also on Wednesday, Insider asked Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Pete Aguilar of California about the proposals at their weekly press conference, prompting both Democrats to once again decline to take a position.

"As the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, I don't get out ahead of members when there are ongoing discussions about how to deal with issues of importance to them," Jeffries explained. "We've got multiple bills that have been introduced by a variety of different members that are going to be before the committees of jurisdiction."

Jeffries also said he still hadn't personally had conversations about the legislation, and echoed Hoyer in declaring that he personally does not own individual stocks. "My own view speaks for itself," he said.

Aguilar also told reporters he doesn't own individual stocks, and that the bills would be allowed to move forward. "We're going to allow this process to move forward, these members are going to be able to make their case to committees of jurisdiction," he said.

Aguilar also pointed to a recent directive from Pelosi to the Committee on House Administration, asking that they review which members of Congress have violated the STOCK Act and consider harsher penalties for violators. "We're not going to hesitate to do that" if needed, Aguilar said.

Aguilar and Jeffries then took shots once again at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who's reportedly supportive of curtialing stock trading by members. "What's we're not going to do is be lectured on this issue by someone who coddled the twice-impeached President," Aguilar said, referring to former President Donald Trump.

"Brilliant members are putting forth different pieces of legislation," added Jeffries. "And we're going to handle this in a thoughtful, evidence-based fashion and come to a conclusion at the end of the day."

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