WASHINGTON - The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation yesterday to explicitly prohibit members of Congress and their staffs from financially profiting from insider information, a rare bipartisan effort that is expected to be addressed in the House next week.
“The truth is, members of Congress have access to all kinds of sensitive information, and it has to be clear that the information is being used to serve our country - not to make a personal profit,’’ said Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican who co-wrote an earlier version of the bill and has been aggressively pushing for its passage.
House majority leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, said after senators passed the bill 96 to 3 that the House would take it up it next week.
Brown’s Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Democrat John F. Kerry, also voted to support the measure.
The legislation, dubbed the STOCK Act, was supported by President Obama in his State of the Union address last week. Obama and Brown chatted briefly about the bill after the speech.
“These are straightforward proposals that will help eliminate the corrosive influence of money in politics,’’ Obama said in a statement last night.
The bill was so popular senators began loading it with amendments - at least 17 - that at one point complicated its passage.
In the end, only a few amendments were allowed to ride on the bill, including language that bans bonuses for senior executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-backed mortgage companies that are under fire for their roles in the housing crisis.
Another amendment requires individuals trawling for information on Capitol Hill on behalf of stock traders to register and disclose their ties.
The Senate also added more teeth to the legislation, including a provision that would revoke the pensions of anyone convicted of insider trading.
It would also require lawmakers to disclose their stock deals within 30 days and would require stock trades and financial disclosure statements be published online for executive branch employees.
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN
Gingrich campaign fights Florida’s delegate rule
LAS VEGAS - Newt Gingrich’s campaign said yesterday it was appealing to Florida Republican officials to award the delegates from their primary last Tuesday on a proportional basis, rather than the winner-take-all formula that gave all 50 to victor Mitt Romney.
Romney trounced Gingrich, 46 percent to 32 percent, but a change in the formula would allow the former House speaker to leave the state with something to show for his 10 days of campaigning and two debate appearances.
“The existing rules that the [Republican National Committee] already agreed upon were that any contest held before a certain date, those contests need to award their delegates proportionally to the outcome of the election.
“So, we are asking the state party of Florida to enforce that rule,’’ said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond.
Florida was penalized by the Republican National Committee for moving up its primary date, having its delegate allocation cut from 100 to 50.
Larry Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement that he had no plans to change the formula for delegate allocation, which was approved by the national party in September.
“All campaigns and the RNC have known since then that Florida was winner-take-all,’’ Curry said. “RNC’s legal counsel has, on numerous occasions, noted their understanding and acceptance of Florida’s rule.’’
While a presidential campaign features rallies and debates, and candidates talking about their program and policy ideas, at base it is a race to secure delegates.
There are a total of 2,286 delegates at stake during this party primary and caucus season, meaning a candidate must secure 1,144 to win the party’s presidential nomination.
After five primaries and caucuses, Romney leads the field with 71 delegates. Gingrich has 23, Rick Santorum has 13, and Ron Paul has three. Florida was the first state not to award them proportionally.
N.C. congressman’s plan may stymie Democrats
WASHINGTON - North Carolina Democratic Representative Heath Shuler won’t seek reelection to the House, potentially making it harder for the Democrats’ effort to win seats in the Republican-controlled House.
The former professional football player and conservative, who challenged House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for her post, said in a statement yesterday he will not seek a fourth House term.
Shuler said he had discussed running for governor with his family before deciding against it earlier this week.
Shuler’s statement says he intends to spend more time with his wife and two young children.
Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature redrew the state congressional lines, making Shuler’s district friendlier to the GOP.