Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) on Friday called for new House leadership because of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stock, issuing a scathing rebuke of Pelosi for putting forth legislation she said was “designed to fail.”
Spanberger has not supported Pelosi (D-Calif.) for House speaker, and has not shied away from criticizing Pelosi’s handling of the stock-trading legislation for months. But Friday’s statement distances her significantly more from the speaker as Spanberger faces a competitive reelection race in which Republicans are eager to tie her to Pelosi and President Biden.
Spanberger and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers had been leading the charge on a congressional stock-trading ban before Pelosi and the House Administration Committee took over, drafting their own legislation behind closed doors for months.
Pelosi said a vote would come by the end of the month. But just days before going on recess, leadership unveiled legislation late Tuesday that ethics experts said was too broad and contained a large loophole. And House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who schedules floor votes, told reporters that lawmakers needed more time to read the 26-page bill and could not vote on it this week.
Spanberger accused leadership and the committee of intentionally releasing “a kitchen-sink package that they knew would immediately crash upon arrival” and engaging in delay tactics so that there would be “no time to fix it.” She questioned whether Pelosi, whose husband is a prolific stock-trader and who initially voiced opposition to a congressional stock-trading ban, actually supported the legislation.
“After first signaling her opposition to these reforms, the Speaker purportedly reversed her position,” Spanberger said in the statement. “However, our bipartisan reform coalition was then subjected to repeated delay tactics, hand-waving gestures, and blatant instances of Lucy pulling the football.”
At a regular news conference on Friday, Pelosi brushed aside Spanberger’s criticism, noting that Spanberger’s proposal was included in the broader package but that “others had ideas as well.” She said the reason it could not go up for a floor vote is because it did not yet have the support to pass, but “that is the legislative process.”
“I said to [the House Administration Committee], whatever the members want to do, I fully support,” Pelosi said. “They took her bill, added others that made the bill stronger as a matter of fact. So this is an interesting press release, but it’s more important to write a bill.”
Asked whether she would still seek to be the Democratic leader next Congress, Pelosi said, “I’m strictly focused on winning the next election.”
Spanberger had partnered with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) to introduce the Trust in Congress Act in 2020, after multiple members of Congress in both parties faced scrutiny for stock trades they made in the early days of the pandemic. The legislation would require lawmakers and their spouses and dependent children to place stocks in a blind trust, among several bills with similar ideals. Business Insider had also documented hundreds of violations of a federal stock-trading disclosure law, while the New York Times documented dozens of potential conflicts of interest lawmakers had because of stocks they own.
Pelosi directed the House Administration Committee to develop legislation earlier this year. The package unveiled this week would ban lawmakers — plus their senior staff and spouses and dependent children — Supreme Court justices and members of the executive branch from owning or trading stocks. They would have to place stocks in other types of investments such as a diversified mutual fund, or a qualified blind trust. But ethics experts raised concerns that the bill included a loophole that may allow for the creation of qualified blind trusts that do not comply with existing law, as Business Insider reported.
“It’s apparent that House leadership does not have its heart in this effort, because the package released earlier this week was designed to fail,” Spanberger wrote. “It was written to create confusion surrounding reform efforts and complicate a straightforward reform priority — banning Members of Congress from buying and selling individual stocks — all while creating the appearance that House Leadership wanted to take action.”
A spokesman for the House Administration Committee did not immediately respond to questions.
Spanberger, who was elected in 2018 after flipping a district that had voted for former president Donald Trump, is in the middle of a highly competitive reelection bid against Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega (R).
Spanberger has sought to make a commitment to bipartisanship a major part of her image in the race, highlighting her advocacy on the stock-trading ban as one example of those efforts. But Vega and national Republicans have ventured to undercut that message by noting she votes with Pelosi “100 percent of the time” in political ads.
Republicans see Virginia’s 7th Congressional District as critical in their bid to take control of Congress after the November midterms, as evidenced by the $8 million national Republicans have spent or reserved in the race to make Vega competitive on the airwaves with Spanberger, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. It’s a district that President Biden won in 2020 but that Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) won in 2021, making it one of Virginia’s most competitive contests this year.