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Sen. Gary Peters leads renewed, bipartisan push to ban stock trades by members of Congress

Grant Schwab, The Detroit News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — For the first time, a U.S. Senate committee will consider legislation that bars members of Congress from trading stocks, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters announced Wednesday.

Peters, who heads the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, is leading the effort along with a bipartisan group of senators.

"I believe that Americans deserve to have confidence that their federal elected officials are making decisions that are in the best interest of the American public, and are not in the interest of any personal finances or financial decisions they make," Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said Wednesday.

The bill would ban lawmakers — including the president and vice president of the United States — from buying and selling a wide range of financial assets. They include securities, commodities, futures, options, trusts and "other comparable holdings," according to Peters.

He added that the legislation would also require that federal elected officials, their spouses and dependent children divest from any such assets beginning in 2027.

Many members of Michigan's congressional delegation have expressed support for similar bans in recent years, especially in the wake of profitable trades by lawmakers from both parties after they were briefed in 2020 about the dawning coronavirus pandemic.

Before then, a Dartmouth University study found that neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers in Congress were particularly adept at picking stock, at least during their analysis period beginning in 2012 and ending in March 2020. But the pandemic drew new outcry.

The bipartisan group behind the current effort includes U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia.

 

"We must be there to serve the public and not our portfolios," Merkley said during a press conference. He noted that he's been working to ban stock trading among his congressional peers since 2012, when he led a similar effort that ultimately failed.

"Even more importantly," Merkley added, "is the conflict of interest. The idea that you own a portfolio that concentrates in fossil fuels, or renewable energy, or bank stocks or pharmaceuticals and you are writing legislation, preparing amendments or voting on bills that affect those investments."

Merkley also cited a poll from the University of Maryland showing that 86% of Americans — with similar numbers among Democrats and Republicans — support a ban on stock trading for members of Congress.

Hawley praised Peters for bringing forth a reform measure that "will be tough, that will close the loopholes, that will close the avenues of avoidance, that will impose real penalties."

"It's really simple and you don't need to explain it to anybody in America," Hawley said. "The only people you have to explain it to are here in this building."

Peters said his committee will consider the legislation during its next markup session, currently scheduled for July 24.

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