Senators unveil bipartisan plan to ban president, lawmakers from buying stocks

Senators unveil bipartisan plan to ban president, lawmakers from buying stocks

Senators unveiled Wednesday a bipartisan plan that would ban the president, vice president and members of Congress from buying stocks and a wide range of other financial assets.

The proposal from Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will be considered by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing later in July, Ossoff’s office said in a Wednesday release.

“Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information,” Ossoff said in a statement. “We still have a long way to go to pass this bill, but today’s bipartisan announcement is a major step forward.”

The new legislation would prevent lawmakers from buying stocks and other types of financial assets while also blocking them from offloading stocks 90 days after the law’s enactment. It would apply to spouses and dependent children starting in 2027 and would also extend to the president and vice president.

Investments would include securities, commodities, futures, options, trusts and other comparable holdings, according to a summary of the legislation provided by Ossoff’s office.

Penalties for failing to comply with the divestment requirements are to exceed either the monthly salary of the government official or 10 percent of the value of each asset — whichever is higher.

Stock trading by both elected and unelected government officials has been an increasing focus of ethics watchdogs and others concerned about members of the federal government profiting from insider information.

The Wall Street Journal won the Pulitzer Prize in 2023 for a lengthy series on regulators, who traded stocks as the pandemic hit and bought and sold stocks for companies that were under their direct regulatory authority.

Wednesday’s agreement comes in the form of a substitute amendment to Merkley’s 2023 ETHICS Act, which received mostly Democratic support in addition to sponsorships by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

That proposal required members of Congress to put their financial assets in a blind trust upon entering office and levied fines upon breaking communications rules around the trusts up to $10,000 or 1 percent of asset values.

“People just expect that if you come to Congress — Senate or House — you’re going to be focused on doing their business and doing what they want, and not day trading,” Hawley said. “My view is that it’s great to save, but if members want to save, they can put it in savings accounts or they can put it in mutual funds, but they don’t need to own individual stocks.”

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