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Dems Reluctantly Support Stock Act, Both Parties Bicker About Changes

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the House prepares to pass its version of the Stock Act Thursday, Democrats claim that even though the changes House Republicans made to the Senate-passed bill had weakened it -- something the GOP flatly denies -- Dems will support it anyway.

Democrats criticized the House version of the Stock Act, or the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which would ban insider trading by members of Congress -- a wealth-generating practice that is considered a federal crime for everyone else.

Dems took issue with the House for eliminating a “political intelligence” registration requirement and dropping anti-corruption legislation. Political intelligence registration would require analysts and research firms to register with Congress and reveal their contacts on Capitol Hill or in the executive branch of government.

Republicans, however, said they’d made the House bill stronger by adding provisions that extended it to cover the executive branch of government and to ensure that members of Congress convicted of a crime did not receive taxpayer-funded pensions.

One congressional watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, called the Republican bill a “watered-down version” of the Senate bill.

“Rep. Cantor has opposed the Stock Act from the start, and his bill reflects that,” said Crew Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “The majority leader is talking out of both sides of his mouth.  He is trying to take credit for finally responding to an issue that has outraged Americans, while behind closed doors he has taken the side of Wall Street and neutered the tough Senate bill.”

Reluctantly, CREW, along with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, still recommend that the House pass the bill and send it to conference, where the stripped-out provisions could be restored before final passage.

“I support #STOCKAct-also support “Pelosi provision” & thank @GOPLeader for giving me an amendment but sorry he weakened bill,” @NancyPelosi tweeted Wednesday afternoon. Pelosi's provision was created after uproar over a 60 Minutes report that included accusations her husband made profitable trades on Visa and other stock which were motivated by privileged information. Pelosi denied on camera that she had done anything wrong.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had intially stripped the political intelligence requirement, instead preferring to support a year-long Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the issue.  During the Senate’s amendment process, the requirement was added back into the bill despite the opposition of the Democratic leadership. Republican aides say that the House bill, which also calls for a GAO study, reflects Reid’s preference to examine the impact of a requirement more closely.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans removed the two provisions from the Senate bill because they believed they, “would have made the bill unworkable or raised more questions [than] they answered.”

A senior aide to Cantor further elaborated that the provisions would have raised, "broad constitutional questions.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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