Washington (CNN) - The Senate voted Monday to begin debate on a bill that makes clear insider trading of stocks and other securities by members of Congress and their staffs is illegal.
The vote was 93 to 2, signaling strong bipartisan support for the election-year measure aimed at cleaning up Congress, the one institution most Americans seem to love to hate.
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"Members of Congress and their staffers have a duty to the American people. They may not use privileged information they get on the job for personal profit," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "But the perception remains that a few members of Congress are using their positions as public servants to serve themselves instead."
A handful of lawmakers – like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma – oppose the bill arguing insider trading laws already apply to Capitol Hill. However, proponents say there are ambiguities in current insider trading laws that could exempt lawmakers and their staffs.
"Insider trading laws were created to level the playing field and stop Wall Street excesses and members of Congress are not above the law," Reid said Monday on Senate floor. "The STOCK Act will clear up any perception that it's acceptable for members of Congress to profit from insider trading. It will end any confusion members of Congress can be prosecuted with a serious crime. They can be."
"I believe we've come up with a solution that addresses the potential problems that really troubles all of us, and that is public officials using public office for private gain," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a sponsor of the bill.
"It isn't a partisan or ideological issue, it's about cleaning up Washington," said bill co-sponsor Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts. Brown, who is in a tough re-election battle against consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, said he was surprised to learn that no member of Congress or congressional staffer has ever been charged with insider trading.
In addition to making clear that insider trading laws and penalties apply to those on Capitol Hill, the bill requires lawmakers and their staffs to report any stocks, bonds or other securities they buy or sell within 30 days of the transaction.
The House will take up the STOCK Act in February, Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office said Monday.