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Senators advance insider-trading bill

Senators today overwhelmingly voted to advance a bill that seeks to prohibit members of Congress, and their staff, from financially benefitting from insider information gained through government proceedings to benefit their stock portfolios.

In a procedural vote that allowed debate to begin on the insider-trading bill, senators backed the measure 93-2. The bill, based in part on legislation from Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, bans lawmakers from initiating trades based on such information and requires them to disclose stock transactions within 30 days.

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A vote for approval is expected by week’s end.

“We must level the playing field and show the American people that the United States Congress does not consider itself to be above the laws that we expect everyone else across the country to obey,’’ Brown said in prepared remarks on behalf of the bill. “It’s time to listen to our constituents and remember that every seat in this room is the people’s seat.’’

That reference was an allusion to his insurgent campaign to win a special election in 2010. During his improbable run, Brown repeatedly chastised pundits for referring to the open Senate post as “Ted Kennedy’s seat,’’ in recognition of the late senator who held the seat for four-plus decades.

The phrase “it’s the people’s seat’’ became a staple of Brown’s campaign speeches.

Brown’s Massachusetts colleague John Kerry, a Democrat, also backed the bill.

Senators and representatives are already subject to the same insider-trading laws that stock traders face. Yet, several factors prompted the Senate to take up the bill: Prosecutors have not been inclined to make cases against sitting lawmakers; a recent “60 Minutes” report spotlighted highly successful stock deals by some congressional leaders, and approval ratings for Congress are at historic lows.

Also, President Obama added pressure to lawmakers by pushing for the bill in his State of the Union address last week. “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow,” he proclaimed.

Michael Bailey can be reached at m_bailey@globe.com
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