STOCK Act passes in the Senate

(CBS) -- The STOCK Act - legislation to bar members of Congress from trading stocks based on nonpublic information they have obtained in the course of their congressional work - passed the Senate Thursday in a 96 to 3 vote.

The legislation still needs to pass the House. President Obama, who said in a statement he was "pleased" by the Senate vote, has vowed to quickly sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Members of Congress are already subject to insider trading laws. But it is currently within the law for a lawmaker to buy a company's stock after learning, for example, that an upcoming bill will grant that company a large government contract.

The ultimate fate of the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, which comes in the wake of a "60 Minutes" story on potential congressional insider trading, remains unclear - though its prospects are relatively good. Passage in the Senate was complicated by a flurry of amendments added to the legislation, including a proposal that senators be prevented from owning individual stocks unless they are in a blind trust, and another that senators who become lobbyists lose their pensions. Some lawmakers expressed skittishness at the efforts to broaden the scope of the legislation.

Senate Democrats and Republicans began voting on 20 amendments, one by one, early Thursday afternoon, after an agreement was worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell following contentious negotiations. The amendment barring lawmakers from directly holding individual stocks failed Thursday 26 - 73; the amendment mandating that lawmakers lose their pensions for lobbying was not among those brought to a vote.

One criticism of the original legislation - raised by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor - was that the original bill did not also focus on the executive branch. That issue seems to have been addressed: An amendment to extend the new rules to cover the executive branch passed on Thursday 58-41.

In a statement following the vote, Cantor said he was "pleased" with the Senate action -- but added that that the version of the bill passed Thursday still needed to be reviewed. The Virgina Republican said the House would take up the legislation next week; if the House passes an amended version of the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate for another vote.


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