Se­nate passes jobs, in­sider-trad­ing mea­sures

Rare dis­play of bi­par­ti­san­ship breaks grid­lock

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

In a rare burst of ac­tiv­ity, the Se­nate broke through its grid­lock rut Thurs­day and passed two bi­par­ti­san mea­sures aimed at cut­ting red tape for small busi­nesses and ex­plic­itly ban­ning in­sider stock trad­ing for mem­bers of Congress.

The Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate voted 73-26 to pass the House Repub­li­cans’ Jobs Act, which is de­signed to give small busi­nesses bet­ter ac­cess to cap­i­tal by eas­ing some Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion reg­u­la­tions.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward, the Se­nate, in an un­usual move, passed by a ver­bal “unan­i­mous con­sent” a bill that pro­hibits mem­bers of Congress and other fed­eral work­ers from prof­it­ing from in­for­ma­tion learned on the job. The mea­sure now goes to Pres­i­dent Obama, who is ex­pected to sign it into law.

“This is a big day in the United States Se­nate,” said Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Re­pub­li­can. “We’re de­lighted to ac­tu­ally be able to say the Se­nate is func­tion­ing ef­fec­tively in a bi­par­ti­san way.”

The Se­nate ap­proved one amend­ment to the small-busi­ness pack­age to in­crease in­vestor pro­tec­tions, so the mea­sure — which eas­ily passed the House ear­lier this month — must go back to the lower cham­ber for final ap­proval. But the bill is ex­pected to quickly clear Congress and be sent to the pres­i­dent, who sup­ports it.

The House jobs pack­age in­cludes six bills, three of which pre­vi­ously passed the cham­ber with wide bi­par­ti­san sup­port but stalled in the Se­nate. A cen­ter­piece is a mea­sure that would make it eas­ier for small busi­nesses to go public, which passed the House in Novem­ber by a 421-1 vote.

The Se­nate ac­tion on the Jobs Act is a vic­tory for House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers, who crafted the mea­sure to re­but Mr. Obama’s claims their party hasn’t done enough to help small busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs. But Sen. Bernard San­ders, a Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent who joined 25 Democrats to op­pose the pack­age, said the bill’s pro­vi­sions to stream­line reg­u­la­tions in­stead would lead to greater in­vestor fraud.

“At best, this bill could make it eas­ier for con artists to de­fraud se­niors out of their en­tire life sav­ings by con­vinc­ing them to in­vest in worth­less com­pa­nies,” Mr. San­ders said. “At worst, this bill has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate the next En­ron or Arthur An­der­sen scan­dal or an even worse fi­nan­cial cri­sis.”

The in­sider-trad­ing bill, which the House al­ready passed with over­whelm­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port, would ex­plic­itly ban mem­bers of Congress, the pres­i­dent and thou­sands of other fed­eral work­ers from prof­it­ing from nonpublic in­for­ma­tion learned on the job.

The Stock Act also would re­quire many gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to dis­close any se­cu­ri­ties trade in ex­cess of $1,000 ei­ther 30 days af­ter the in­di­vid­ual was no­ti­fied of the trans­ac­tion in an ac­count or 45 days af­ter the trans­ac­tion.

The House cur­rently posts dis­clo­sure in­for­ma­tion on the In­ter­net, but the Se­nate still re­quires peo­ple seek­ing the data to ap­pear per­son­ally in a Se­nate of­fice build­ing.

“I strongly be­lieve that we have to make clear that no­body here is above the law and that mem­bers of Congress need to play by the ex­act same set of rules as ev­ery other Amer­i­can,” said Sen. Kirsten E. Gil­li­brand, New York Demo­crat.

The bill also would re­quire mem­bers of Congress, their se­nior staff and toplevel ex­ec­u­tive-branch em­ploy­ees to dis­close their mort­gages an­nu­ally.

An ear­lier pro­posal to re­quire public re­ports from peo­ple who gather in­for­ma­tion from Congress — and sell it, mainly to in­vestors — was dropped from the final bill.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. John Thune (cen­ter), joined by (from left) Sens. Pa­trick J. Toomey, Scott P. Brown and Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son, speaks Thurs­day dur­ing a Capi­tol Hill news con­fer­ence. The Se­nate on Thurs­day passed the Jobs Act and Stock Act. “We’re de­lighted to ac­tu­ally be able to say the Se­nate is func­tion­ing ef­fec­tively in a bi­par­ti­san way,” Mr. Thune said.

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