Congress spares feds from online disclosure

US Capitol

With no debate, the Senate and House moved quickly this week to pass legislation that repeals a key part of a law enacted a year ago that was intended to increase financial disclosure by senior federal employees. The step had been urged by a private report issued two weeks ago, which concluded that the new requirements would pose a national security risk for some employees.

The repeal effort was approved with a notable lack of disclosure: no committee action or advance notice of floor action by leaders in the Senate or House. In each chamber, the week's scheduled legislative action already had been concluded before passage of the measure that strikes the new rules, which have stirred intense private objections by many legislative and executive branch senior aides.

The Senate approved the bill late on April 11 when Sen. Christopher Coons, (D-Del.), acting on behalf of Senate leaders, called up the measure that had been introduced earlier that day. He offered no explanation of the bill, which includes complex parliamentary details.

The bill largely waived the requirement for on-line posting of financial transactions, which was included in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act—a Senate-initiated bill that was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers. According to the measure, the only persons who would remain covered by the disclosure requirement are the President, Vice President, presidential nominees, members of Congress, and candidates for Congress.

The House passed the bill at noon on April 12; no lawmaker spoke about the measure, according to the daily proceedings that are reliably maintained by the House press gallery. President Obama presumably will sign the measure prior to the scheduled April 15 deadline when the new rules would take effect. The bill would not affect other provisions of the STOCK Act that impose other financial disclosure requirements, including restrictions on insider trading, but without Internet posting.

Sponsors of the proposal last year described the STOCK Act as a measure to "restore the public's confidence in Congress." That law—which was expanded to cover top employees throughout federal agencies--was triggered by a report by CBS News' "60 Minutes" that described rampant insider trading by members of Congress.

But the March 28 report of the National Academy of Public Administration concluded after a four-month private study with dozens of interviews that its requirements "impose unwarranted risk to national security and law enforcement, as well as threaten agency missions, individual safety and privacy."

About the Author

Richard E. Cohen, an FCW contributing writer, has covered Capitol Hill for more than three decades and is the author of several books on Congress.


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