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Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks with reporters after a vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Jayapal Accuses Democratic Leaders of Botching Stock Trading Ban

"This should have been a no-brainer," said the Washington Democrat.

Julia Conley

Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Monday said Democratic leaders had made it impossible to bring a bill banning stock trading by federal lawmakers up for a vote last month by holding discussions about the legislation behind closed doors—a process that she suggested sabotaged an opportunity to pass a bill with broad public support ahead of the midterms.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus chair said in a press call that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) decision to direct the House Administration Committee to draft a proposal left members unaware of "what was happening with the bill," which was released just before they were scheduled to go on recess.

"A lot of folks are calling the release of any text a step forward. But it's not a genuine step forward."

The Washington Democrat told reporters that she couldn't "speak to people's intentions" regarding why lawmakers were given so little time to review the legislation, but noted that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made it clear last week that he would not support reforms to the STOCK Act in order to restrict trading by members and avoid conflicts of interest.

"We weren't really brought into the process," Jayapal said. "The way in which it was released, and the timing of it, and the fact that it never even got to come to a vote, and the fact that some members—even of leadership—were not supportive of it, was very difficult for us."

As The Intercept reported last week, the version that was released by the committee did not take into account Jayapal's proposal for a ban, which she co-authored with Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.). Jayapal is one of the five Democrats who have recently sponsored legislation to ban stock trading on Capitol Hill.

"This should have been a no-brainer in terms of being able to craft it in a way that kept our Republican support—that some of us had already managed to get on our bills—and gotten enough Democratic support to pass the House," Jayapal said.

Several members said discrepancies between the bill that the House Administration Committee negotiated and the bipartisan proposals that had previously been proposed left them unwilling to vote on the package before the recess. The Intercept reported that "non-starters" included "issues around the structure of qualified blind trusts, the inclusion of dependent children in the ban, and a measure expanding the ethics rules to members of the judiciary—sticking points that negotiators addressed in bipartisan reforms hashed out earlier this year."

"We have bills that were bicameral and bipartisan, and none of us involved with those were consulted, and now we have a bill that can't move," a Democratic staffer told The Intercept last week. "A lot of folks are calling the release of any text a step forward. But it's not a genuine step forward."

Economic justice group Patriotic Millionaires said Tuesday that Democratic leaders' decision-making regarding the legislative process amounted to "suspicious activity."

"There are too many careless actions here to be a genuine mistake," said the group.

Before finally allowing the party to negotiate a package, Pelosi expressed opposition to a ban on stock trading by members late last year, even after a report showed dozens of conflicts of interest by lawmakers who own stock in the healthcare sector and other industries that they are tasked with regulating.

Last month, as the package was being written, a New York Times investigation revealed that nearly 100 members of Congress owned stocks in companies influenced by their congressional committees.

A poll published last week by Stand Up America and Data for Progress, a day after the text of the package was released, showed that nearly 80% of Americans support banning stock trading for their representatives in Washington.

In a conversation on Twitter Spaces Tuesday with Rep. Raja Krishnanmoorthi (D-Ill.), who has also sponsored stock trading ban legislation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) expressed hope that legislation can be passed after the midterms.

"Close the trust loophole, and apply the bill to only Congress, and then pass a bill on congressional stock trading," tweeted CREW. "It's time to get this done."

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