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Democrat and Republican tag-team to ban congressional stock trades — including those done by spouses

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

While a ban on congressional stock trading is gaining popularity on Capitol Hill in both parties, a bipartisan tag-team of lawmakers says any such a ban needs to cover the spouses of members of Congress.

Several high profile ethics violations have prompted lawmakers to place greater scrutiny on insider trading. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), for example, is under investigation by House ethics officials after his wife bought stock in a struggling Ohio steelmaker after the Trump administration informed Kelly it would grant additional tariff protections to the company.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy have introduced legislation that would ban stock trading for both lawmakers and their immediate family members while they serve in Congress.

Their bill, which has 50 co-sponsors, is one of several proposals designed to capitalize on public outrage over insider trading in Congress. But those other proposals omit lawmakers' spouses and dependent children from the ban, which Spanberger and Roy say is a fatal flaw.

“To put forth a stock ban that only applies to members would be, as I would perceive it as an American ... kind of a slap in the face to the American people,” Spanberger said at a recent event hosted by Issue One, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Project on Government Oversight.

The lawmakers argue that exempting the family of members of Congress from a stock trading ban would be a transparent attempt to skirt the rules.

“It would defy logic to say you’re not going to include your immediate family, because I think everybody would see that for what it is,” Roy said.

Under the Spanberger-Roy bill, all members of Congress and their immediate family would be required to place their stocks into a blind trust. Any lawmaker who fails to comply would face a fine equal to their entire congressional salary, according to The Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was initially opposed to a ban on stock trading but changed her position earlier this month after facing pressure from members of her caucus. Notably, Pelosi's husband has made millions of dollars trading stocks, even though she herself does not trade.

Pelosi has charged Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, with drafting a stock trading bill that would also increase transparency around Supreme Court justices' financial transactions.

Spanberger expressed openness to a wider bill Friday, but warned that any "poison pill" amendments included could threaten this opportunity to hold lawmakers accountable.

“Let's police ourselves first, let’s hold ourselves to the highest standard first, and then we take the next look at who comes next,” Spanberger said.

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