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Saluting Slaughter, Obama signs STOCK Act

A key legislative player was missing Wednesday as President Obama signed into law a bill that bans insider stock trading among members of Congress and other top federal officials.

But the president was not about to let anyone forget her.

"I want to recognize Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and wish her a speedy recovery," Obama said. "She broke her leg yesterday, so she can't be here in person. I think she'll be OK. But she first introduced the STOCK Act in 2006, and I know how proud she is to see this bill that she championed finally become law."

Actually, Slaughter, D-Fairport, broke her leg Monday in a fall while attending an event honoring women leaders in New York.

That meant the STOCK Act's leading champion could not be at the White House to witness the bill being signed into law.

Still, Slaughter was the only lawmaker the president mentioned by name in his remarks before signing the bill.

And afterward, Slaughter issued a statement reflecting on the moment.

"I am so proud that after six years of hard work and effort, we can finally assure the American people that we are not profiting from information we learn in our pursuit to represent them," Slaughter said. "Today with the STOCK Act becoming law, we made clear that we are not above the law."

Joined by Vice President Biden, Obama praised the STOCK Act, calling it an example of a key American value: "The idea that everybody plays by the same rules."

"It's the notion that the powerful shouldn't get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else," Obama said.

"And if we expect that to apply to our biggest corporations and to our most successful citizens, it certainly should apply to our elected officials -- especially at a time when there is a deficit of trust between this city and the rest of the country."

In addition to explicitly banning members of Congress, the president and thousands of top federal officials from engaging in insider trading, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act requires lawmakers to give notice of any major stock trade online within 45 days of the transaction.

The final version of the legislation attracted widespread support, and several of the key congressional players in the fight for the STOCK Act, such as Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., attended the signing ceremony.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., an early advocate in the Senate, could not attend, but sIntermediate string overflow he spoke with Obama on Tuesday to thank him for pushing for the STOCK Act's passage in his State of the Union address.

The STOCK Act languished for years until a CBS News "60 Minutes" report last November indicated that several lawmakers from both parties were profiting from insider information.

That report breathed new life into the bill, which Slaughter first introduced after a similar Wall Street Journal report six years earlier.

Nevertheless, the bill's path to passage was complicated.

The Senate originally passed a stronger version of the bill that included a requirement that "political intelligence" operatives, who pass on congressional information to companies and investors, register just like lobbyists do.

But the GOP-led House passed a narrower bill, without the political intelligence provisions, which many Republicans saw as unduly burdensome.

Rather than negotiate with the House, the Senate leadership grudgingly brought the House bill to the floor, where it passed overwhelmingly.

Slaughter, Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are now pushing the political intelligence provisions -- which Slaughter had called the most important part of her proposal -- in separate legislation.

But for Slaughter, Wednesday was a day to revel in what she had just won.

"This was certainly a long and turbulent debate, but it becomes more and more clear to me that these are the fights worth taking on, even when no one else will," Slaughter said.