Floor Updates

Lieberman, Blumenthal, Shelby, Collins

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Feb 01 2012

12:14 PM

Senator Lieberman: (11:16 AM)
  • Spoke on the status of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "There's so much that we can do here, our staffs worked oversight, overnight, tried to divide the amendments into those that are germane and relevant, those that are not. We understand leadership on both sides will be talking about how to proceed. I repeat what I said at the outset. All of us who worked so hard on this to respond to the concern that members of Congress and our staffs are not covered by insider trading laws, that we not try to solve every problem or correct every potential source of public mistrust of Congress on this bill for fear that we will therefore never get anything accomplished. And I'm hopeful that as the morning goes on and certainly into the afternoon, after discussions that occur at lunch hour, that we will be able to proceed to handle some amendments in an expeditious way and that we can see our way to the end of consideration of this bill. Remembering that on the basic provisions of the bill, we have overwhelming bipartisan support. I understand that the vote on cloture to proceed does not exactly express support for the final vote, but there were only two who voted against cloture so clearly the overwhelming number of members of the Senate want to proceed to vote on the bill. If we don't break this unfortunate and really unnecessary and harmful gridlock, either the Majority Leader is going to have to file cloture or leave the bill and go on to other pressing business, the FAA reauthorization, and the like. And that would be, I think, not only disappointing to us but having aroused the hope that we would respond to the public concern, anger about the possibility that we're not covered by insider trading laws, we will have ended up increasing that concern and anger and disenchantment with Congress and I don't think any of us want to do that."

Senator Blumenthal: (11:20 AM)
  • Called up Blumenthal amendment #1498 (deny retirement benefits to Members of Congress convicted of certain offenses).
  • Spoke on Blumenthal amendment #1498 (deny retirement benefits to any Member of Congress convicted of certain offenses).
    • SUMMARY "Essentially this amendment very simply and directly assures that members of Congress who may be prosecuted and convicted of the offenses specified in senate S. 1261 also should see their pensions revoked. Along with potentially other crimes that they may have committed. the purpose essentially is to assure the credibility of Congress by revoking pensions of corrupt members of Congress. Not only those that may be convicted under this pending bill, insider trading, but also a variety of other public corruption offenses. In fact, the amendment adds 22 new public corruption offenses to existing law that merit cancellation or revoking of congressional pensions Not one dime of taxpayer money should go to corrupt elected officials. Over the past 60 years, 50 - over the past 50 years, members of Congress have been convicted of 16 separate felonies, so the need for this measure is considerable, even if it is a small minority of the members of Congress. And in fact, right now approximately $800 a year are - 8 not hundred thousand dollars a year are paid to members of Congress have been convicted of these kinds of felonies In short, very simply, a breach of law by an elected official is a serious offense that should have consequences. Taxpayers should not pay for the retirement benefits of elected officials convicted of a felony, members of Congress, anyone else, especially as the United States faces the soaring deficits that it does now and the crippling debt that grows even higher."

Senator Shelby: (11:53 AM)
  • Called up Shelby amendment #1491 (apply to executive branch and independent agencies).
  • Spoke on Shelby amendment #1491 (apply to executive branch and independent agencies).
    • SUMMARY "Right now, the STOCK Act, as it is written, does not apply its public disclosure requirements to the executive branch or independent agencies. The amendment that I have offered here this afternoon, this morning, ensures the public disclosure of all trading by senior government officials. Yes, I'm going to say it again. My amendment ensures the public disclosure of all trading by senior government officials. This is a very reasonable amendment, as it is limited to the executive branch and independent agency personnel who are already subject to the reporting requirements. My amendment merely expands the enhanced disclosure requirements under the stock act to these current filers. Without this amendment, madam president, it would be impossible for the public to know whether executive branch officials are complying with the STOCK Act. The public should be able to monitor trades of all executive and legislative branch officials in the same manner. Let's not make Congress transparent while leaving the executive branch and independent agencies in the dark. Ironically, the disclosure provisions of the STOCK Act currently do not apply to the Securities and Exchange Commission, their employees and so forth, the body that will be responsible for enforcing such provisions on Congress. That's nonsense. The SEC which has access to vast financial markets information, should be held to the same standards it has been charged with enforcing. my amendment will apply the disclosure provisions of the STOCK Act to all branches, ensuring transparency for all in government."

Senator Lieberman: (11:56 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I agree that there should be parity between the legislative and executive branch branches wherever it's appropriate. I'm very happy to work with him on this. But I must say that yesterday we made some progress on a somewhat similar amendment with Senator Paul to appropriately scope the amendment on requiring executive branch officials to report on their financial traction - transactions to Senate-confirmed positions. I don't know whether that's the resolution here or not, but I think we should work on it. I do want to state for the record that the executive branch is not free of conflict of interest regulations. In fact, in some sense, you might say that they have - they have tougher restrictions. Even Securities and Exchange Commission employees have to get permission before they can make stock transactions and then have to file disclosures, not within 30 days or ten days, but within two days, I believe. So, you know - and there are many other regulations on them. I think part of what's going on here is the nature of the two branches. Here in Congress to deal with conflicts of interest, we have focused on a system of disclosure and transparency. We have embraced the adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant. In contrast, the executive branch actually addresses potential conflicts of interest through not just transparency but statutory mandates that require the diversity of stock and recusal from being involved in handling anything that relates to any interest, personal interest that an individual in the executive branch has. There is a very extensive system of high-ranking agency officials being forced to divest themselves of conflicting stock holdings, obviously sometimes at a financial loss. Now, that wouldn't really - there would be an amendment to come up on that, but to do it exactly in the way - at least on the recusal sections that the executive branch does it wouldn't really be appropriate for members of Congress because members are called on to vote on issues across the widest array of activity and recusal, therefore, is not a viable option because it would deny our constituents representation and our votes on a very wide array of - of public issues."

Senator Collins: (12:01 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I support the intent of the amendment offered by the Senator from Alabama. I think that he's right, that we need parity as much as possible in the disclosure requirements. I also believe that he's correct that those disclosure reports should be online so that they are easily accessible. So the intent of his amendment is one that I whole heartedly support. Like Senator Lieberman, I do have some questions about the universe of federal employees who would be covered by the Senator from Alabama's amendment. We have been working successfully with the Senator from Kentucky, who first brought up this issue of parity, to make sure that the scope of the coverage is appropriate. It seems to me that one way to solve these issues is to use a similar scope as we've agreed on with Senator Paul in the amendment that Senator Shelby has brought forth. Then we would have a certain consistency, we vetted the universe of federal employees that should be covered, and that seems to be - to me to be very appropriate and relatively easy fix to this issue. But I do want to emphasize that I agree with Senator Shelby that those federal employees should be required to file in the same time frames as members of congress, and their staffs, and that certainly those reports should be aches online --accessible online."