White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese on Friday expressed support for legislation to bar members of Congress from trading stocks during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“I think that that’s certainly sensible. It’s a rule that we all operate by and live by in the executive branch,” Deese, who serves as President Biden’s top economic adviser, said of the proposal.
“There’s a lot of distrust and mistrust around how politics works, around the political process,” he added. “One of the things that we need to do across the board is restore faith in our institutions, whether that be Congress and the legislative branch, whether that be the Fed and otherwise and so anything we can do to try to restore that faith, I think makes a lot of sense.”
The White House noted Friday that Biden has not yet endorsed any proposals surrounding congressional stock trading.
“As Brian said this morning, President Biden believes that all government agencies and officials, including independent agencies, should be held to the highest ethical standards, including the avoidance of any suggestion of conflicts of interest,” a White House official told The Hill. “At this early point in the legislative process, the White House has not endorsed any bill text.”
Still, Deese’s comments add momentum to a growing bipartisan push to bar lawmakers and their immediate family members from owning or trading individual company stocks.
On Wednesday, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill that would require sitting members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children to divest from securities or transfer them into a blind trust. That proposal follows several other bipartisan bills to prevent lawmakers from trading stocks.
Lawmakers’ stock trades have drawn intense scrutiny after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and others unloaded stocks just before the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the market in early 2020, drawing federal insider trading investigations. Business Insider has since identified more than 50 lawmakers who violated stock trading rules by failing to disclose their transactions.
The issue came to the forefront after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters last month that lawmakers should not be barred from trading stocks, as long as they are complying with congressional rules meant to prevent insider trading.
“We’re a free-market economy,” she said. “They should be able to participate in that.”
In a recent poll from conservative advocacy group Convention of States Action, 76 percent of voters expressed support for banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks, including 70 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Republicans and nearly 80 percent of independents.
Stock trading scandals have also hit the Federal Reserve, which is instituting tougher ethics rules in response.
Two of the central bank’s senior officials resigned after they were found to have made huge investments in stocks at the outset of the pandemic. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida also resigned on Monday after failing to disclose the full extent of his stock trades.
– Updated at 2:11 p.m.