A new Democratic bill would block lawmakers from buying and selling individual stocks while in office 

  • Two Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks in industries tied to their legislative work.
  • The legislation was prompted in part by the scandal surrounding Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who was indicted on insider trading charges in August.
  • "There must be more accountability and transparency," Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is considering a run for president, said in a statement.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, left, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, left, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

Two leading Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill intended to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks in industries tied to their legislative work.

The measure would ban members of Congress and senior staff from buying or selling individual stocks while in office. Members would also be barred from serving on any corporate boards.

A release from Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown cites two recent trading scandals, one involving a Republican congressman from New York and another involving former Rep. and one-time Trump administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, for inspiring the bill.

"It's way past time to end conflicted trading, in which legislators and top staff trade in stocks while making decisions affecting their value," Merkley said in a statement about the measure, which is called the Ban Conflicted Trading Act.

Since Republicans will hold a six-seat majority in the Senate come January, it's unlikely that the bill would get a floor vote, let alone pass through the chamber. However, the measure will likely give Democrats some political ammunition leading into the 2020 election, when Republicans will be defending more Senate seats than Democrats. Brown, meanwhile, has said he is considering running for president.

The Merkley-Brown measure follows a similar proposal from fellow Senate Democrat, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Unveiled in August, Warren's bill would ban members of Congress and White House staff from owning individual stocks. Like Brown, Warren is considering a run for president.

Under the measure unveiled Thursday, current members could sell their holdings within six months after the bill's passing, and new members could sell holdings within six months of being elected.

"Elected officials have access to nonpublic information that can affect individual companies and entire industries," said Brown in a statement. "There must be more accountability and transparency to prevent members from using this information and abusing their positions for personal gain."

Earlier this year, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was indicted on insider trading charges in August after he allegedly told his son about a failed drug trial at Australian company Innate Immunotherapeutics before it was announced. His son and son's fiancee then sold their shares in the company, avoiding roughly $768,000 in losses, according to prosecutors.

Despite the charges, Collins won his bid for re-election in November.

Price, meanwhile, left his Trump administration post in September 2017 in the midst of a scandal over his use of charter flights funded by taxpayer dollars. He had also bought shares of Innate while he was in Congress.