Joining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday rejected the idea that members of Congress should not be allowed to own or trade stocks, arguing that lawmakers should have the same financial privileges than any other American.
Hoyer stressed that he owns no shares himself and he welcomed the idea that various committees have signaled their intention to consider these proposals.
“But,” he added, “my general feeling is that members should be no different than they would otherwise be if they weren’t members of Congress.”
“As long as they do it legally, without having any particular advantage, my immediate reaction is that it shouldn’t be ruled out.”
That stance puts Hoyer in the same camp as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who made waves last month defending congressional securities traders.
Pelosi’s office has repeatedly defended her position, saying these investments are owned by her husband and she has no control or knowledge of how they are managed.
Still, a growing number of lawmakers — including members of Pelosi’s House Democratic Caucus — are raising concerns that shareholding among members of Congress can create damaging public perceptions that lawmakers trade nonpublic information learned of their unique work on Capitol Hill, or that they’re drafting legislation with designs to improve their own financial well-being.
“Maintaining public trust is the number one thing we want to do when we think about this issue,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the No. 6 House Democrat, said Wednesday.
Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) have joined forces on bipartisan legislation that would require members of Congress to divest individual stocks or transfer them to a blind trust, where they would have no control over the day-to-day management of the investments. Others, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), went even further, calling for an outright ban on lawmakers’ stock ownership.
That law “made it very clear,” Hoyer said Wednesday, “that any inside information the member receives cannot be used — and is a criminal offense if used — to trade stocks.”
Those reports have only fueled concerns about lawmakers’ optics of trade in the eyes of voters who, according to polls, already hold Congress in historic low regard. It’s an issue that seems to be on the minds of Democratic leaders as they weigh potential legislative remedies.
“We want to make sure people understand that we’re doing this for the right reason,” Aguilar said. “And so, to the extent that we need to make changes to the STOCK Act, or increase penalties or ensure better compliance with the STOCK Act, we will not hesitate to do so.”
“What we’re not going to do is be lectured on this issue by someone who pampered the twice impeached president,” Aguilar said. “But we will be open to legislative solutions if that ensures compliance.”
The Hill has removed its comments section, as there are many other forums for readers to join in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.