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Ban on congressional insider trading clears key Senate hurdle

A ban on insider trading by members of Congress cleared a key procedural hurdle Monday in the Senate, moving toward final passage and a House vote on similar legislation later next month.

A bipartisan group of senators voted 93 to 2 in favor of ending debate on the STOCK Act, a piece of legislation meant to prohibit members of Congress, their families and staff from using any information gleaned while working on the Hill to execute stock transactions.

The legislation 60 votes to attain "cloture," or limit debate and move toward final passage. The bill will be debated and amendments will be attached over the next week. It's unclear when the final vote will occur.

The House version will expand certain restrictions on insider trading to White House staff and is also expected to create clear restrictions on members of Congress making land deals using insider information. The House is looking to move on that legislation within a month.

"Leader Cantor plans to move an expanded version of the STOCK Act through the House in February to make it clear that those in Congress are subject to the same laws as everyone else," Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Cantor's office told NBC.

Fervor over insider trading on Capitol Hill reached a peak last fall following the airing of a "60 Minutes" segment questioning whether lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made investments based on their knowledge of legislative activity to which they would be privy.

Pelosi and other lawmakers named in the piece disputed any allegation of impropriety, but a number of lawmakers in the meanwhile proposed versions of the STOCK Act to address any perception of poor ethics.

President Obama lent his support to the legislation in his State of the Union address. "Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow," he said. On Monday, his administration issued a formal endorsement of the Senate bill.

Today during a conference call, Sens. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) each said the STOCK act was important to pass to remind the American people that Congress can actually achieve something.

"The American people need to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by," Gillibrand told reporters, "We have to show, number one: we're not above the law, number two: that we play by the same exact rules as every other american, and three: that we can actually get something done."

But each also admitted that the Senate bill, in its current form, does not have support with the Republican leadership in the House, something that will likely result in the two versions of the bill being "conferenced" after they pass their respective chambers. "We're not opposed to working together," Stabenow said. 

But the three lawmakers did not hold back the frustration they have with House Republicans, who stopped a mark-up of the STOCK Act in it's current forms late last year after Cantor decided that the bill needed to be expanded.

"The fact that House Republican leadership is unwilling to take up a bill that already has fantastically strong bipartisan support shows their inability to lead on an issue that the people have agreement on," Gillibrand said, "If Eric Cantor wants to lead another piece of legislation, God bless him."