This vote was on an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that would have established broad new restrictions on federal employees in the executive branch.
Sen. Paul’s amendment was offered during consideration of the STOCK Act, a bill to prevent members of Congress from using their access to inside information to profit in the stock market. Sen. Paul’s amendment would have expanded the bill’s scope to affect employees of the executive branch of the U.S. government, as well. It established new restrictions on individuals who have a financial stake – or whose family members have a financial stake – in a private company. These individuals would be barred from working for an agency if there were a possibility that the agency could distribute funding to, or in some other way exercise oversight of, the company.
“I think the idea that you should not make money off of government is an important one, but it is not just Congress that this should apply to; this should apply to the executive branch. We should not have hundreds of millions of dollars in loans – even billions of dollars in loans – dispensed by people who used to work for that company or whose family still works for the company,” Sen. Paul said.
Opponents of the amendment called the bill unnecessary, noting that the executive branch of government already has tough ethics rules in place.
“The fact is, executive branch employees are already subject to an effective, in some ways broader ethics regime than [members of Congress] face now,” Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) said. “It is backed up by criminal sanctions. As an example, executive branch employees file financial disclosure forms. Agency ethics officials who examine them can compel divestiture of holdings. They can require the individual to recuse himself from certain matters and, if recusal is not sufficient, the agency can reassign the individual.”
Sen. Paul’s amendment, which would have added new restrictions on federal employees, was defeated by a vote of 48-51. Voting “yea” were 38 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 43 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 8 Republicans. As a result, the STOCK Act moved forward with its focus still on outlawing insider trading by members of Congress and their employees.