WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — There’s a growing appetite on Capitol Hill to ban acting members of Congress from trading stocks.
Both Democrat and Republican senators have introduced separate bills to stop what they see as a conflict of interest. While there are already laws on the books to try to prevent inside trading on Capitol Hill, a recent report by Inside Business showed there are 54 lawmakers in violation of those laws.
Lawmakers say they want to take things a step further. Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said it’s time to ban sitting members of Congress from trading stocks.
“I think this a common sense proposal,” said Hawley. “It’s not too much to ask of public officials, to ask of elected officials that they focus on doing what the people sent them here to do and not be padding their own pockets.”
Hawley says his proposal would require lawmakers and their spouses to avoid conflicts of interest by only investing in mutual funds or through a blind trust.
“That way, you’re not trading on any individual stocks on information that you may or may not have,” said Hawley.
With Hawley’s bill, lawmakers in violation would be forced to surrender any profits gained in office to the treasury department.
In recent years, several lawmakers have faced criticism for their stock trades. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is under civil investigation after he sold more than $1 million in stocks right before the pandemic hit.
Still, the effort faces an uphill battle.
“There are limitations already,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
He said he’s unsure the bill is necessary.
Last month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted that current disclosure requirements are enough, despite a recent report showing dozens of members in violation.
“If people aren’t reporting they should be,” said Pelosi.
She says an outright ban goes too far.
“Because we’re a free-market economy and they should be able to participate in that,” Pelosi said.
But a growing number of Democrats disagree. Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff also introduced a bill to ban trades and place steeper fines for any violations. Under Ossoff’s proposal, violators would be fined their entire salary.
*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Sen. Burr was a former senator. He is a sitting senator. We regret the error, which has been fixed.