(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders who she accused of dragging their feet on legislation to ban stock trading by lawmakers.
Spanberger, who introduced a bill with Republican Representative Chip Roy to require that lawmakers place investment assets into a blind trust while in office, questioned Pelosi’s commitment to a stock-trading ban and called the delay in acting on any reform bill before the House leaves for a break “a failure of House leadership.”
“After first signaling her opposition to these reforms, the Speaker purportedly reversed her position. However, our bipartisan reform coalition was then subjected to repeated delay tactics, hand-waving gestures, and blatant instances of Lucy pulling the football,” Spanberger, who faces a competitive re-election contest for her Virginia district in November, said in a statement on Friday. “It’s yet another example of why I believe that the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill.”
Pelosi, who has faced pressure from some Democrats to allow a new generation to take over, said she hadn’t seen Spanberger’s statement and brushed aside the call for new leadership, saying she is focused on “winning the next election.”
She said parts of Spanberger’s proposal has been incorporated in legislation unveiled by senior Democrats earlier this week.
“Other members have ideas, too,” Pelosi said. “You have to have the votes to bring it up.”
Pelosi two weeks ago suggested that a vote on a stock trading ban might happen this month, but the House is set to leave Washington on Friday without taking any action on the legislation unveiled Monday by House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and Pelosi ally. The bill emerged nine months after a coalition of progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans began a new push for prohibiting or restricting members of Congress from trading individual stocks and other financial instruments.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had assigned a group of Senate Democrats to come up with a single bill that would incorporate multiple stock trading proposals introduced in that chamber. But no proposal has come forward yet.
Roy, the Texas Republican who co-sponsored a stock trading ban with Spanberger, said there are “a lot of people” in Congress who would rather not impose restrictions on trading stock, even though doing so would be broadly popular with voters.
“I think there’s a lot of, a lot of efforts to purposefully kind of make this just kind of die under its own weight, and that’s not surprising,” he said, adding that Congress will need to address the issue eventually.
“One of the highest applause lines I get is that members of Congress shouldn’t be actively trading while they’re voting on these issues at the same time,” he said. “I think that tells you where the body will have to go.”
Democratic Representative Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, who is facing a tough campaign for re-election, joined in the criticism of the delay, saying there are multiple proposals that have bipartisan support.
“The endless delays in this process are completely unnecessary,” he said in a statement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who oversees the floor schedule, had privately told other members of House Democratic leadership that he opposed the stock trading ban. He told reporters Friday in response to Spanberger’s statement that leaders will weigh bringing up the stock trading ban when lawmakers return after the Nov. 8 election, which will decide control of Congress next year.
“I think that is an issue that we are going to be looking at,” the Maryland Democrat said. “There is going to be continued interest in that.”
Democratic officials, who did not want to be identified in discussing private conversations, said there are deep divisions among Democrats over the legislation, including among party leaders. Some Democrats who are in closer races that Spanberger and who oppose parts of Lofgren’s proposal don’t want to take a politically difficult vote just weeks before the election, the officials said.
Lofgren said this week that her bill was getting a “pretty positive” reception but would be subject to negotiations with other lawmakers. She said delaying a vote beyond this week should not taken as any signal about its chances. “I don’t think so because the Senate is not going to get theirs done this week, either,” she said.
The legislation would require public officials to divest current holdings or put them in a blind trust. It would also tighten disclosure requirements and increase penalties for violations. The vice president, Supreme Court justices, cabinet officers and other top government officials would face the restrictions as well.
The bill’s trade and ownership restrictions cover commodities, futures, cryptocurrency or other digital assets as well as stocks. Also covered are interests acquired through derivatives, including options.
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