(Bloomberg News) The U.S. House voted to strengthen the ban on insider trading by members of Congress and other government officials amid a record-low public approval rating of the way lawmakers do their work.
The measure, approved 417-2 today in Washington, would bar members of Congress, their staffs and some executive branch workers from trading stocks, commodities or futures based on non-public information they learn on the job. The Senate passed a different version of the bill, S. 2038, on Feb. 2.
The House measure, offered by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, omits a Senate provision that would set a new disclosure requirement for companies that gather political information and sell it to investors.
"Can you believe what a few people in the House did to put this bill together behind closed doors?" Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who sponsored the provision in his chamber, said today on Bloomberg Television.
Grassley said he will continue working to require the disclosure. "I'm not going to forget about this, and it's not going to go away," he said.
President Barack Obama has urged Congress to pass the insider-trading measure, which would require members of Congress, as well as some government officials and workers in independent federal agencies, to report any trades of $1,000 or more within 30 days. The rule wouldn't apply to widely held investment funds.
Voting against the measure today were Republican Representatives John Campbell of California and Rob Woodall of Georgia. The bill also would block bonuses for executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while the mortgage-financing agencies remain in government conservatorship.
Though members of Congress aren't exempt from existing federal insider-trading laws, the Constitution's protection of their "speech or debate" may make it hard to investigate potential violations under current law.
A Gallup poll yesterday showed that a record-low 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, down from the previous low of 11 percent in December. The nationwide poll was conducted Feb. 2-5 among 1,029 adults.
CBS's "60 Minutes" reported in November that some members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, bought stock in companies while legislation that might affect those businesses was being debated. Both said they did nothing wrong.