Bipartisan group of senators reaches agreement on bill to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

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A bipartisan group of senators has reached an agreement on legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., joined Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Jon Ossoff of Georgia on Wednesday to announce a compromise bill that would ban lawmakers from trading stocks. It will be introduced later this month in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks a question during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2021. (Tom Williams-Pool / Getty Images)

The four senators came together to write the bipartisan legislation after each had his own separate proposal. There is no guarantee that it will be brought to the floor for a vote, but its slated July 27 markup is a major step toward that possibility — and the first time a bill banning stock trades by lawmakers would be taken up by a committee in the upper chamber.

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The bill, which is a modification of Merkley’s Ethics Act, would immediately ban members of Congress from buying stocks and other covered investments and prohibit members from selling stocks within 90 days of enactment.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., attends a hearing in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2023. (Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via / Getty Images)

If signed into law, the legislation would also ban the spouses and dependent children of lawmakers from trading stocks starting in March 2027. It would also require members of Congress, the president and vice president to divest from all covered investments, starting the same year.

Penalties for violations of the divestment requirements of the bill would be either the monthly salary of the official or 10% of the value of each asset in violation, whichever is the greater amount. The bill also raises Stock Act penalties for non-reporting from $200 to $500.

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“Congress should not be here to make a buck, Congress should be here to serve the people,” Hawley said in announcing the deal. “There is no reason why members of Congress ought to be profiting off of the information that only they get and the rest of the American people don’t get.”

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., walks to the Senate subway in Washington, D.C., after a vote on July 11, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via / Getty Images)

“The public should be confident that federal elected officials are making decisions that are in the best interests of the American people, not their own personal finances,” Peters said in his own statement. “I’m committed to advancing this bill through my committee and sending it one step closer to becoming law to rebuild trust in government and give Americans peace of mind that Congress is always working on their behalf.” 

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“Three years ago, I introduced landmark legislation to ban stock trading by Members of Congress. Today, after helping lead years of intensive bipartisan negotiations, I can report progress toward this necessary reform,” Ossoff said. “Georgians overwhelmingly agree: Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make Federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., questions Attorney General Merrick during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 1, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via / Getty Images)

“Members of Congress are elected to serve the public — not their stock portfolios. And no member should be thinking about their personal gain when voting on bills or writing legislation,” Merkley said. 

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He added, “In a huge step forward, this bill will be marked up and receive bipartisan support in committee. The whole Senate should pass this bill and do so soon.” 

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