Congress — sort of — bans insider trading

Here’s where Congress’ principled motivation came from

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Thursday to ban insider trading by members of Congress and to impose new ethics requirements on lawmakers and federal agency officials. Doesn’t that look meaningful? Look further for the reality.

The 417-to-2 vote came less than three weeks after President Obama demanded such action in his State of the Union address. The Senate approved a similar bill by a vote of 96 to 3 on Feb. 2, but the lopsided votes concealed deep disagreements over the details of the legislation.

The swift response and the debate in both chambers showed lawmakers defensive and anxious about the low esteem in which Congress is held. The public approval rating of Congress has sunk below 15 percent…

Democrats said that House Republican leaders had weakened the Senate-passed bill by stripping out a provision that would, for the first time, regulate firms that collect “political intelligence” for hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. Under the Senate bill, such firms would have to register and report their activities, as lobbyists do.

In place of this requirement, the House version of the bill calls for a study…blah, blah, blah.

Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, who has been pushing ethics legislation since 2006, said that House Republican leaders apparently “could not stomach pressure from the political intelligence community, which is unregulated and unseen and operates in the dark…”

In the Senate, the bill — the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or Stock Act — was written by members of both parties. In the House, it was revised by Republican leaders, without consulting Democrats, and it was considered on the House floor in a way that precluded amendments…

Please, don’t expect too much bona fide work on ethics from a Congress dedicated to achieving little or nothing. Given the lack of concern for the life and economics of ordinary citizens by our elected elite – I wouldn’t expect much more than the odd sound bite’s worth of useful lawmaking to spill from the Congressional maw.

Even this halfway useful bill resulted from media pressure. Congress members who have been introducing such legislation for years have gotten nowhere. Only election year publicity on a couple of TV shows lit a fire under political butts.

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