June 18, 2010

McClatchy reports McCaskill’s bill to end Senate’s “secret holds” is moving forward

By CREW Staff

The practice of "secret holds" in the Senate may be coming to an end. The Senate being the Senate, however, there are many pitfalls ahead for any effort to end the nefarious practice of "secret holds." This isn't the first time the Senate has tried to rein in the practice, as Melanie Sloan explained in a post on May 7, 2010:

In 2007, the newly elected Democratic majority passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA), hailed by its supporters as landmark ethics and transparency legislation. Section 512 of HLOGA sought to force senators to reveal themselves when they were "intending to object to a proceeding" - a parliamentary maneuver more commonly known as a "hold." HLOGA did not end the use of holds, but instead forced senators choosing to block an action to place their objection in the Senate calendar next to their name. Unfortunately, the provision did not create a new Senate rule or standing order of the Senate, or include any enforcement mechanism. Rather, members were simply expected to comply and loopholes remained. As a result, CREW's research showed that the procedure outlined under HLOGA was followed only twice since its creation, while senators of both parties continued to place secret holds.

Senator Claire McCaskill is trying to end the practice for good. And, it looks like she has the votes to make it happen -- but she knows that the hard part still lies ahead:

McCaskill, a first term Democrat, apparently has persuaded enough of her colleagues to back her effort to take the "secret" out of the Senate's practice of secret holds.

If her bill gets to the floor, which is appearing more likely since every Democrat supports it, plus enough Republicans to grease passage, no senator would be able to block on a nomination or a piece of legislation without leaving fingerprints.

McCaskill cautioned that it was too early to start tossing confetti.

"We have 67 people who said they want to abolish the rule," she said. "Now we have to translate 67 people into 67 votes. I haven't been here very long, but long enough to know this is going to be the hard part."

Indeed, she intends to continue her hunt for more supporters so she has "some wiggle room in case some senators get cold feet."



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