Senators renew push to ban congressional colleagues from trading stocks

Senators renew push to ban congressional colleagues from trading stocks
Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill
Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill (showing former president Washington). Red trend line indicates the stock market recession period claffra/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Senators renew push to ban congressional colleagues from trading stocks

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A bipartisan group of senators is making a second attempt to ban fellow lawmakers from being able to own and trade individual stocks while they are serving.

According to PunchBowl News, the effort is gaining momentum as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) team up with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to attempt to advance a stock trading ban that could resemble a similar proposal Warren worked on with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) the last session of Congress.


The legislation, introduced in February of last year, attempted to ban members of Congress and their spouses from owning stocks or other investments that could be influenced by their service in Congress. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) also co-sponsored a companion bill in the House.

“No one should ever have to wonder whether their Member of Congress is working for the public interest or their own financial interest,” Warren said in a statement when introducing the legislation last year. “I’ve fought for years to root out corruption in Washington, and to ban federal officials from owning and trading individual stocks.”

Public outrage over the practice first captured the nation’s attention when former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) sold up to $1.7 million in stocks just before COVID-19 hit the U.S. In his capacity on the key panel, Burr received regular briefings on threats to the U.S.

Support for a ban grew when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, Paul Pelosi, sold millions of dollars worth of shares of a computer chipmaker as the House prepared to vote on legislation regarding chip manufacturing. Initially, Pelosi said she would not support a ban. She eventually reversed course and committed to taking up legislation that would restrict members from stock trading, but the legislation stalled.

There have been other efforts this session to crack down on stock trading by members of Congress. In January, Hawley introduced his own legislation called the PELOSI Act, or the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act, focusing on the former speaker and her family to ban stock trading by members of Congress.

Earlier this spring, the Washington Examiner first reported about an effort led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and 20 other Democratic and independent senators to prohibit lawmakers from buying or selling stocks. It would also require them and their spouses and dependents to divest from certain assets or place holdings into a “qualified blind trust,” a proposal that wouldn’t apply to lawmakers who were only recently elected this Congress until their next reelection. Under that bill, if they did not comply, lawmakers would be subject to civil penalties that are equal to one month’s pay or “an amount equal to 10 percent of the value of each covered investment that was not divested or placed into a qualified blind trust.” Further, the bill outlines that the attorney general would have to file a civil action and impose penalties. It’s unclear whether the legislation has any Republican support.

In the lower chamber, there are several bills being considered to ban members of Congress from trading stocks while in office. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) reintroduced a bill earlier this year that would require members, their spouses, and their dependent children to put certain investment assets into a blind trust while they serve.

Earlier this month, unlikely alliances formed between some progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans who also are pushing to ban members from trading stocks. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced a bill that also would restrict ownership of financial investments and trading by members of Congress, their spouses, and dependents.


“The fact that Members of the Progressive Caucus, the Freedom Caucus, and the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, reflecting the entirety of the political spectrum, can find common ground on key issues like this should send a powerful message to America,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

An investigative report from theNew York Times that came out toward the end of 2022 found that nearly one-fifth of lawmakers or their families had bought or sold financial assets over a three-year period that could have been affected by their public service.

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