WASHINGTON, DC (WWAY) -- North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr was one of two votes Monday against a bill that would make it clear that insider trading laws apply to lawmakers.
The Senate voted 93-2 Monday to clear the way for consideration of amendments and - sponsors hope - final passage later this week of the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK Act. Burr and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) were the only votes against the procedural motion.
"Sen. Burr voted against cloture on the bill because there are already laws in place to address this critical issue," Burr spokesman David Ward told WWAY. "Laws regarding insider trading that apply to the American people also apply to members of Congress and their staff. Members of Congress are elected to serve the people, not make money for themselves, and any member or staff member who breaks the already existing insider trading laws should be held responsible."
The STOCK Act would require disclosure of new stock transactions on the Internet within 30 days and explicitly prohibit members of Congress from initiating trades based on non-public information they acquired in their official capacity. The legislation, at least partly symbolic, is aimed at answering critics who say lawmakers profit from businesses where they have special knowledge.
US lawmakers already are subject to the same penalties as other investors who use non-public information to enrich themselves, though no member of Congress in recent memory has been charged with insider trading. In 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department investigated then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of stock in his family's hospital company, but no charges were ever brought against the Tennessee Republican.
Voters may believe lawmakers who are paid an annual salary of $174,000 are enriching themselves - especially if those voters saw a segment of CBS' "60 Minutes" in November. The show questioned trades by a House committee chairman, the current speaker and his predecessor's husband. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) all denied wrongdoing. Bachus chairs the Financial Services Committee.
The Senate bill would prohibit lawmakers from tipping off family members or others about non-public information that could influence a stock's price, in addition to the explicit ban itself. And it would direct the House and Senate ethics committees to write rules that would make insider trading violators subject to congressional punishment.
House leaders are working on a more expansive bill that would include land deals and other non-stock transactions. A vote is expected in February.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.