The House passed a watered-down version of the STOCK Act, the bill that would ban insider trading among members of Congress. Democrats supported it in order to get the bill to a conference committee, as it has already passed the Senate. So the final vote was 417-2.

The two major changes to the bill made by Eric Cantor drop key provisions added by the Senate:

CREW strongly supported the Senate approved version of the STOCK Act (S. 2038) passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 96 to 3. S. 2038 goes well beyond merely prohibiting insider trading by, among other things, requiring registration by political intelligence consultants, stripping pension benefits from corrupt members of Congress and closing serious loopholes in the nation’s anti-corruption laws.

The bill Rep. Cantor is bringing to the floor removes several of these provisions. Although the House Judiciary Committee passed nearly identical legislation late last year, the new bill drops the Leahy-Cornyn amendment, which responds to court decisions that have undermined prosecutors’ efforts to target public corruption. It also excludes the Grassley Amendment, which would require political intelligence consultants to register with Congress.

This clearly created a weaker bill, but with Senate Republicans accusing Cantor of being a sell-out, Democrats may feel they have the upper hand in conference negotiations.

Meanwhile, even though we’ve been told that insider trading is currently allowable among members of Congress, one member faces an investigation for it.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee over possible violations of insider-trading laws, according to individuals familiar with the case.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who holds one of the most influential positions in the House, has been a frequent trader on Capitol Hill, buying stock options while overseeing the nation’s banking and financial services industries.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent investigative agency, opened its probe late last year after focusing on numerous suspicious trades on Bachus’s annual financial disclosure forms, the individuals said. OCE investigators have notified Bachus that he is under investigation and that they have found probable cause to believe insider-trading violations have occurred.

The 60 Minutes story on which this whole thing was based had its bad parts, but as far as Bachus is concerned, they appear to have had the goods. He clearly has been buying and selling investments, some on the same day, while serving as the lead Republican on the Financial Services Committee. The trades always seem to match up with some policy announcement. It’s so blatantly obvious you almost are required to make a joke about Bachus being from Alabama.

Of course, that’s an Office of Congressional Ethics inquiry, not a formal criminal investigation. And that’s what the STOCK Act would put into play. That is, if the House and Senate can work out their differences.

Notably, Bachus tried to move forward with his own insider trading bill late last year before Cantor stopped him. I wonder if there was some retroactive immunity in that sucker.