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Pelosi shifts stance on banning lawmakers from trading individual stocks

After initially resisting further curbs on members of Congress trading individual stocks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has since shifted her position. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shifted her public position Wednesday on banning lawmakers and their spouses from owning and trading individual stocks, saying more readily that she would support a ban if members of her caucus wanted to do so.

In December, Pelosi had swiftly shot down the idea that lawmakers and their spouses should not trade individual stocks while in Congress.

“We’re a free-market economy,” Pelosi told reporters then. “They should be able to participate in that.”

In January, Pelosi signaled that she could be open to a ban but seemed reluctant.

“I just don’t buy into it, but if members want to do that I’m okay with that,” Pelosi told reporters then.

Asked Wednesday about legislation to ban lawmakers from trading stocks, which has gained traction in recent weeks, Pelosi sounded more amenable — albeit far from throwing her full support behind it — noting that the Committee on House Administration is reviewing options members had submitted.

“I do believe in the integrity of people in public service. I want the public to have that understanding,” Pelosi said. “We have to do this to deter something that we see as a problem. … And if that’s what the members want to do, then that’s what we will do.”

Pelosi also said she wanted to see fines tightened for violating the Stock Act, which requires members of Congress to report any stock trades they make within a certain time period. And she suggested that any ban on individual stock trades for lawmakers should be applied “government-wide.”

“The third branch of government, the judiciary, has no reporting. The Supreme Court has no disclosure. It has no reporting of stock transactions. And it makes important decisions every day,” Pelosi said. “Our members have been saying this for years: Why does the Supreme Court of the United States have no disclosure, financial disclosure? … In the executive branch, when they divest of their stock, they don’t pay capital gains. So that’s an interesting feature.

“But it’s complicated, and members will figure it out, and then we’ll go forward with what the consensus is,” Pelosi concluded.

Ironically, Pelosi’s initial rejection of a possible ban gave momentum to the legislation, according to Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) who co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) last year that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

“The news of the speaker’s comments blew the lid off the issue,” Roy said last month.

A recent Business Insider investigation found that, since 2020, 49 members of Congress and 182 staffers have violated the Stock Act by not reporting their trades in a timely fashion, with minimal or no consequences.

On Wednesday, Spanberger said Pelosi appeared to sidestep the fact that there is already bipartisan legislation gaining traction in the House.

Spanberger also noted that Pelosi did not outwardly endorse a ban on lawmakers trading stocks, and when asked directly, she also “didn’t speak to the necessity that the ban include spouses.” Pelosi’s husband has been highly active in trading stocks, Business Insider has reported, citing financial disclosure reports.

“I think she spoke very broadly about reforms that need to be made,” Spanberger said. “She looped in staff members, she looped in the judiciary — she basically created a behemoth of an issue that to me signals that maybe the intent is to just talk about this for a lot longer, when there is a bipartisan bill that continues to get more and more co-sponsors every single day.”

Last month, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill similar to that of Spanberger and Roy. Their legislation would require members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children to place their stocks in a blind trust while the member is in office — intended to prevent insider trading, or the appearance of it, given that lawmakers can have access to privileged information.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) teamed up to introduce similar legislation this week.

“People across this country need to have complete confidence that when members of Congress are making decision that those decisions are based on what those members believe is best for the public and not what’s best for them financially,” Warren said on MSNBC’s “Stephanie Ruhle Reports” on Wednesday.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a competing proposal in January, which proponents of a ban have taken as more evidence of bipartisan support. Both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) have said they would support such a ban.

“There are a number of senators with various proposals, and I have asked my Democratic colleagues to come together and come up with a single bill this chamber can work on,” Schumer said Wednesday. “Some of the proposals … have bipartisan support. So this is something that the Senate should address. Hopefully we can act on it soon, and hopefully it can be done in a bipartisan way like many of the bills we are looking at this week.”

Spanberger said it is clear that the issue has broad bipartisan support and that she did not want to see a study of it drag on longer than necessary.

“The idea that we wouldn’t actually take action is something I find unacceptable,” Spanberger said. “So I’ll continue to beat the drum on this legislation. And I’ll continue to be very vocal when there may be hand-waving attempts at addressing what is a real issue rather than bringing forth legislation that would really meaningfully address it.”

Asked about a possible ban Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “early in the legislative process” but pointed out that President Biden did not own or trade stocks while he was a senator.

“He also believes that all government agencies and officials, including independent agencies, should be held to the highest ethical standards,” Psaki said. “I would just reiterate how the president has operated and conducted himself as he has been in public life for just a few years now.”