Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) on Friday called for new Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill after top House Democrats scrapped plans to vote on legislation banning lawmaker stock trading.
The scathing statement from Spanberger, a two-term congresswoman in a tight reelection race, came one day after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said a bill prohibiting lawmakers from trading stocks would not be put up for a vote this week.
Spanberger was one of a number of Democrats in tough reelection contests pushing for a vote on the legislation — which has widespread public support — before the November midterms, in the hopes of securing a victory to tout in the final weeks of campaigning. She sponsored a bill on the matter last year.
“This moment marks a failure of House leadership — and it’s yet another example of why I believe that the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill, as I have long made known,” Spanberger said in a statement.
“Rather than bring Members of Congress together who are passionate about this issue, leadership chose to ignore these voices, push them aside, and look for new ways they could string the media and the public along — and evade public criticism,” she added.
The House leaves Washington on Friday and is not scheduled to return until after the midterms.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who was at first opposed to a stock ban but backed the effort in February — had teased a September vote on the measure earlier this month. Hoyer, who is reportedly against the stock ban push, told reporters on Thursday that lawmakers did not have enough time to review the legislation, which was unveiled this week.
Spanberger claimed that leadership engaged in “repeated delay tactics.”
“For months, momentum grew in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to finally take a step towards prohibiting Members of Congress from day trading while on the job. We saw remarkable progress towards rectifying glaring examples of conflicts of interest. And after first signaling her opposition to these reforms, the Speaker purportedly reversed her position. However, our bipartisan reform coalition was then subjected to repeated delay tactics, hand-waving gestures, and blatant instances of Lucy pulling the football,” she wrote.
Pelosi responded to Spanberger’s statement at a press conference on Friday, noting that the Virginia Democrat’s bill is included in the House Administration Committee’s legislation.
“Her bill is in the bill, others had ideas too. And that’s what the committee put forth,” the speaker told reporters. “But it’s good press because you asked a question.”
She also addressed the House’s failure to bring the measure to the floor, telling reporters “we have to have the votes to bring it up.”
The bill introduced by the House Administration Committee this week would have implemented a stock trading ban for members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children, senior congressional staffers, the president, the vice president, federal judges, Supreme Court justices and others.
Momentum behind such a ban has been on the rise in recent months, especially amid reports of members of Congress violating conflicts of interest laws.
The committee, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), began working on the legislation after Pelosi backed the effort and directed the panel to work on policy recommendations. A number of bipartisan bills aimed at ending congressional stock trading had already been introduced at that point.
But Spanberger on Friday argued that the House Administration Committee crafted a bill that was bound to be unpopular in the chamber because of its wide-ranging provisions.
“As part of their diversionary tactics, the House Administration Committee was tasked with creating a new piece of legislation — and they ultimately introduced a kitchen-sink package that they knew would immediately crash upon arrival, with only days remaining before the end of the legislative session and no time to fix it,” she said.
“It’s apparent that House leadership does not have its heart in this effort, because the package released earlier this week was designed to fail. It was written to create confusion surrounding reform efforts and complicate a straightforward reform priority — banning Members of Congress from buying and selling individual stocks — all while creating the appearance that House Leadership wanted to take action,” she said.
The Virginia Democrat vowed to “be dogged in my efforts to ban Members of Congress from using the privilege of their position to profit,” in the coming months.
“I look forward to working with both my Democratic and Republican colleagues to get these reforms done,” she added.
Updated 12:31 p.m.