White House urges Senate on insider trading bill

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 26, 2012 6:29 PM
White House urges Senate on insider trading bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate scheduled a vote next week on legislation banning insider trading by members of Congress, a measure the White House described on Thursday as an important step in cleaning up Washington politics.

"This bipartisan legislation will help limit the corrosive influence of money in politics and restoring the American people's trust in Washington," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The legislation, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled for a test vote late on Monday, would explicitly ban federal lawmakers from trading stocks based on information they glean that has not been made public.

The measure also would prohibit them from owning stocks in companies on which they could have an impact through legislation they are working on.

"We believe this is an important first step to prevent members of Congress from profiting from their positions and call for swift passage," Carney said.

Similar legislation is under review in the House of Representatives but it was unclear when a vote in that chamber could occur. Legislation tackling this issue has been pending in Congress for the past five years. It won renewed attention following a "60 Minutes" television report last year that some lawmakers had profited from inside information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has authority to prosecute insider trading under general anti-fraud provisions but it has never launched cases against members of Congress.

Monday's action in the Senate is a procedural vote intended to gauge support in the 100-member chamber. If at least 60 senators vote yes, that could clear the way for debate and a vote on the legislation itself and would indicate enough support for passage.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Aruna Viswanatha; editing by Christopher Wilson)