After letting various scandals bounce around for months, Congress finally passed the STOCK Act that bans insider trading, and this time it's for real. Final passage comes two days after Senate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture petition to force a vote -- though he feared the bill would not pass -- and six weeks after the Senate passed a more aggressive version of the bill. The version heading to Obama's desk is decidedly weaker than previous versions in cracking down on Members of Congress exploiting their knowledge of government regulations to line their pockets with returns on their investments. But it wouldn't be any fun to be a lawmaker if you didn't enjoy a fringe benefit here and there, right? Wrong, says Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. Grassley called Reid's expressed lack of confidence in the bill that ultimately passed "another example of Wall Street being heard in Washington and the common person in the United States not having its will expressed."
The specifics of the politicking behind getting the STOCK Act passed are complicated, and those calling for reform will surely bemoan the fact that Congress went with a watered down bill. But at least we can celebrate the fact that Congress did something. It would be an overstatement to say that the House and the Senate have been productive this legislative season: this common sensical bill suffered from a particularly rocky path to becoming a law. It's been months since 60 Minutes drew the nation's attention to insider trading allegations on Capitol Hill and weeks since everyone had apparently come to an agreement on how to fix it. What took them so long? Well, as Grassley suggests, the sound of Wall Street's opening bells ring loudly in the ears of this nation's leaders. But not quite as loudly as the prospect of those leaders losing their jobs. It is an election year after all.