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Senate sends Obama bill banning insider trading by Congress, staff

WASHINGTON — Congress completed work last week on a bill that bans insider trading by lawmakers and congressional staff.

The Senate voted 96-3 for the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act, and sent it to President Barack Obama for his expected signature.

Congress was spurred to action on the ethics reform after CBS’ “60 Minutes” ran a special report on congressional insider trading last November. Obama urged passage of the bill in January during his State of the Union address.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the bill would “clearly and expressly” make it illegal for members of Congress, their staff and their families to gain personal profits from nonpublic information gained through their elected position.

The House voted overwhelmingly in February for the bill after striking a provision that would have imposed new requirements on “political intelligence consultants” who collect information about bills and sell them to investors.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who had sponsored that provision, said he was disappointed that Senate leaders would not allow a vote to restore his proposal to the bill.

“The whole process irritates me,” Grassley said on the Senate floor.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted in favor of the STOCK Act.

SENATE APPROVES SMALL-BUSINESS BILL

The Senate voted 73-26 for a package of initiatives aimed at helping small-business owners take their companies public and raise capital.

The bill would relax federal regulations on businesses looking to raise capital and put together initial public offerings. Proponents said easier access to capital would allow businesses to grow and hire more employees.

“We’ve got a chance to pass this … and to really make some progress at a time we need it badly,” said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.

Democrats opposing the bill argued that it would significantly weaken protections for investors against fraud and abuse.

“It will take the cop off the beat relative to the activities of some huge banks, and it will threaten damage to the honesty and integrity of our financial markets,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Reid and Heller voted for the bill.

HOUSE votes to REPEAL MEDICARE PANEL

The House voted 223-181 to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board established in the 2010 health care reform law and tasked with recommending savings in Medicare.

A bill backed mostly by Republicans would have included tort reforms that would cap noneconomic damage awards for medical malpractice cases.

Proponents of abolishing the IPAB said they were looking to protect senior citizens from having their health care “rationed” by a board of “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.”

Democrats who opposed derailing the IPAB countered that the board was designed to recommend cost-saving policies for Medicare and that Congress would still have to act.

Others argued against the medical malpractice reforms as overly broad and an issue for states to handle.

The bill, which President Barack Obama has threatened to veto, is not expected to move forward in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But it did provide the House a backdrop for debating the 2010 health care law that was enacted two years ago and comes before the U.S. Supreme Court for three days of oral arguments this week.

Reps. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted to repeal the board. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against repeal.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban@stephensmedia.com or at 202-783-1760.

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