Congress Insider Trading Bill Backed By Harry Reid

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday night he would support legislation to end insider trading among members of Congress and saw no reason why the bill couldn't become law this year.

President Barack Obama called on Congress during his State of the Union address to swiftly pass legislation barring legislators from investing in companies whose business is affected by matters before the two chambers.

"Well, I think people should have enough sense not to do it without legislation, but I will support legislation," Reid told a handful of reporters after the speech.

Could the bill become law this year? "I don't see why it shouldn't," Reid said.

Senate Republicans were glad to hear of Reid's willingness to back the bill -- or at least his inability to see how its demise might come about.

"Oh good! I hope he schedules it for floor action," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said when told about Reid's backing.

Collins is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate committee that approved the legislation in question, the Stock Act. The committee chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, said he was glad to hear the president backs the bill.

"I think [the bill's prospects] were helped by the president's endorsement, but the bill came out of committee on a bipartisan basis," said Lieberman (I-Conn). "It's one of those things we can do to restore some trust and confidence in confidence."

The bill is casually referred to in the Capitol as "The 60 Minutes Act," a reference to a report by the television program about a series of insider trades by members of Congress. At the time, I wrongly reported that 60 Minutes' poor choice of targets for its report, and its clumsy attempt to connect specific trading to specific legislative action, set momentum for the bill back. Instead, in fact, the report propelled the legislation forward.

Still, during Obama's endorsement of the bill, the House floor was awfully quiet, belying the public offers of support.

And Reid wasn't exactly enthusiastic about embracing Obama's expansion of the bill to block all lobbyists from bundling political contributions, and all bundlers from lobbying. "I don't think he said that," Reid said. "He talked about bundlers and he talked about lobbyists, I guess, or some bundlers are lobbyists, I guess. I don't know.

Nevertheless, it's an easy bill to support. "I hope he brings it to the floor. I don't see a lot of controversy there," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.