Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said public pressure forced congressional leaders to take up a stock trading ban for lawmakers and credited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for standing down from her original opposition to new legislation.
"The people at home watching have made it too difficult to ignore," Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday, noting that Congress now just needs to "stick the landing without any funny business" on new legislation.
Ocasio-Cortez made the comments during a video news conference Thursday with Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Joe Neguse of Colorado.
The lawmakers are seeking action on their bill, the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, which would prohibit members of Congress and senior staff from purchasing and selling individual stocks and or serving on a board for any for-profit entity.
"I think that the speaker's openness on this position is really a testament to the fact that, you know, public attention and pressure can move public policy from the bottom all the way to the top," Ocasio-Cortez said of Pelosi's recent change of heart. "I applaud the speaker's openness and her willingness to listen to the caucus on this issue."
Ocasio-Cortez, Neguse and Krishnamoorthi have been pushing the legislation for several years and now, after continued reports of members' shady stock dealings, ongoing violations of the current STOCK Act and public pressure, congressional leadership has agreed to take up the issue.
Their legislation doesn't call for a ban on spouses of lawmakers trading stocks, which has been in the spotlight, in part, because of Pelosi's husband's lucrative stock portfolio. But Ocasio-Cortez said she personally supports a spousal ban and hopes the legislation gets to a point where it can be amended for such provisions.
First, lawmakers will be coalescing around a single piece of legislation – as there are competing proposals in both the House and Senate on curbing stock trade abuses – and making sure that bill has enough support to hold a vote.
Pelosi, bowing to the concerns of her caucus, said she will not oppose stock reforms, though she wants to see provisions extended to the Supreme Court, which does not have to disclose stock trades as members of Congress currently do.
"What we're trying to do as a group is make sure we don't lose sight of the central premise of the immediate effort," Merkley said. "That is we have a deeply poisonous problem of members trading in individual stocks while they're writing policy and that's just unacceptable."
Under the STOCK Act, passed in 2012, it's illegal for members of Congress and their families to profit from inside information, and it requires lawmakers to report stock trades to Congress within 45 days. In some recent cases, lawmakers have failed to report their trades altogether.