Biden avoids wading into the congressional stock trading debate

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol Building in Washington, United States, January 6, 2022.

Michael Reynolds | Reuters

WASHINGTON — As several proposals in Congress to ban members from trading stocks gain steam this week on Capitol Hill, President Joe Biden has chosen not to take sides in a debate that could divide his Democratic colleagues.

While Biden “believes that everyone should be held to the highest standards,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday, he would “allow members of Congress and members of Congress to determine what the rules should be” about stock trading.

Psaki’s statements came in response to a direct question about Biden’s own position on this issue, which she did not disclose. However, I have noticed that the president did not trade individual stocks when he was a senator from 1973-2009.

The question of whether members of Congress should be allowed to trade individual stocks on Capitol Hill has been around since 2020, when the Department of Justice questioned Senator Richard Burr, RN.C. Suspicion of insider trading.

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr sold $1.3 million in stock in mid-February, while receiving classified briefings about the upcoming Covid pandemic. Burr was not ultimately charged with a crime.

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In recent weeks, the case has gained new momentum, fueled by growing public support for the ban and new reports about the prevalence of violations of the existing law, the Stock Act of 2012, which is designed to prevent insider trading and conflicts of interest in Congress.

In the past year alone, 54 members violated stock law rules, according to an analysis by Business Insider’s Dave Leventhal and published earlier this month.

There are increasing indications that the public supports the ban as well. A recent survey commissioned by conservative advocates found that 76% of voters believe lawmakers and their spouses have an “unfair advantage” in the stock market. The same poll, conducted by the States Labor Convention, also found that only 5% of potential voters approved of the stock trading congressional members.

Over the past week, several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, members of the House of Representatives and senators have introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers and their immediate family members from actively trading stocks while a member is in office.

In the House, Representative Abigail Spannberger, a Democrat from Virginia, and Representative Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, co-sponsor the Trust Act, which requires members of Congress to place their investments in a blind trust while in office.

On January 12, two Senate Democrats, John Osoff (Ga.) and Mark Kelly (Arizona) introduced a bill accompanying TRUST, the Stock Exchange Prohibition Act in Congress.

On the same day, Republican Missouri Senator Josh Hawley introduced a congressional ban on stock trading, which differs from the Democrats’ bill in that it includes less stringent penalties and more generous deadlines.

But while these proposals may gain traction with members of Congress, there is no indication yet that the House leadership wants to push them forward.

Conversely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in December rejected the idea of ​​a stock-trading ban in Congress, calling it fundamentally un-American. “We are a free market economy,” she told reporters at the Capitol. Members of Congress “should be able to participate in that.”

One person in particular who has been involved in this is Pelosi’s husband, venture capitalist Paul Pelosi. The House of Representatives annual financial disclosure forms reveal that Paul Pelosi is an active trader who owns tens of millions of dollars worth of stock.

House Speaker Pelosi has insisted for years that she does not personally own any stock, and has no role in Paul Pelosi’s investing activities.

However, with Pelosi on one side of the stock-trading issue, and House Democrats like Spannberger on the other, it is understandable that Biden himself may be reluctant to take another side.

But while the president may choose to bring the issue of stock trading back to Congress for decision, one of Biden’s closest economic advisers, National Economic Council Chairman Brian Daisy, took up the issue directly last week.

Speaking live with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin last Friday, Dess called the proposed ban “certainly reasonable.”

“There is a lot of mistrust and mistrust about how politics works, about the political process,” Desi continued. “One of the things that we have to do across the board is to restore confidence in our institutions, whether it’s in Congress and the legislature, whether it’s the Federal Reserve or whatever. So anything we can do to try to restore that faith, the thinking is very logical. “.

“It’s a rule that we all work by and live by in the executive branch,” Des told Sorkin, referring to the stricter rules on financial disputes that apply to executive branch employees. “It doesn’t put any real workload on our ability to do our jobs,” he said.

Biden is scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday to mark his first anniversary in office, where he could decide to address the issue of stock trading in Congress more directly.

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