WASHINGTON - Even as the Senate debates legislation to ban insider trading by members of Congress and House Republican leaders promise a vote on the bill, DFL Rep. Tim Walz is preparing to use an obscure parliamentary procedure to force a vote in the lower chamber on the STOCK Act.
Walz and fellow sponsor, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), will make a motion on the House floor to discharge the bill from the House Financial Services Committee's docket, where it's currently sitting. If Walz and Slaughter can get 218 signatures - and their legislation currently has 271 cosponsors from both parties - they can force the bill onto the floor.
"We're truly on the brink of getting it done, and all we're here to say is no more delays, no more partisan games, no more brinksmanship," Walz said at a press conference Wednesday.
Walz and Slaughter's version of the bill has been kicking around the Capitol for years in obscurity. But interest in the legislation grew rapidly late last year after a 60 Minutes report suggested that several prominent members of Congress, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had allegedly made outsized stock market profits based on information not available to the general public.
A Senate version of the bill was quickly introduced and is currently under debate in that body, but the House bill stalled after a scheduled hearing was canceled on short notice.
In his state of the union speech last week, President Obama called on Congress to pass the bills immediately. At a press conference Tuesday, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he planned to hold a vote on the bill in February but suggested it could be changed if he was not satisfied with the Senate bill. In particular, Cantor said he wanted to ensure the bill also covered the executive branch.
Discharge petitions are exceedingly rare and only a handful are typically filed in a regular session of Congress. In challenging House Republican leadership with the petition, Walz and Slaughter could risk losing the support of their GOP cosponsors, who may be less eager to take on the powerful Majority Leader.
I applaud Representatives Walz and Slaughter for this approach. This week, the Senate has been voting on a version of this legislation (although there are a number of unrelated amendments being attached, so what should have been a quick and simple vote, will not be.) NPR had a story on this -- including comments from Representative Walz.
Yesterday, the discharge petition already had 115 signatures (including Minnesotans McCollum and Peterson) ... while the majority were Democrats, I did notice Republican support.
Will MPR be calling Erik Paulsen who is a co-sponsor and asking for his thoughts ?
The discharge petition should be used more often to force the powerful Party Managers to bring bills for a vote when there is broad support. For example, the HR 1351 the United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011 has 228 co-sponsors with strong support from both parties ... yet Chairman Issa has a competing bill with one other sponsor, it sits.
Conversely, it has also been used when there was not broad support ... for example, in 2008, Congresswoman Bachmann attempted to move American Energy Independence and Price Reduction Act but that was more show as it was a Republican tactic during the Drill-Baby-Drill campaign. Ms. Bachmann also tried this tactic to repeal Obamacare last term.