What the Hell?

According to this Los Angeles Times article from March, senators can no longer secretly hold up legislation.


The Senate on Tuesday [March 28] voted to strip its members of the power to secretly place a "hold" on legislation they oppose, a parliamentary tool that has allowed a single senator to derail bills or nominations while leaving no fingerprints. The proposal's passage came as the Senate drew close to finishing debate on a bill that would overhaul the chamber's lobbying and ethics rules.
And yet somebody managed to do this for a bill that wasn't introduced until April 6. (Update: Oh, so it was never actually signed into law.) By the way, we strongly encourage someone to confront Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens about this, if you get our drift, wink, nudge, etc.

Relevant part of the LAT story, after da jump ....

Senators End Right to Derail Votes Secretly

Home Edition, Main News, Page A-9

National Desk

By Mary Curtius, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Tuesday voted to strip its members of the power to secretly place a "hold" on legislation they oppose, a parliamentary tool that has allowed a single senator to derail bills or nominations while leaving no fingerprints.

The proposal's passage came as the Senate drew close to finishing debate on a bill that would overhaul the chamber's lobbying and ethics rules ....

The proposal to do away with the anonymous holds, used by senators to signal to Senate leaders their objection to legislation, won overwhelming support on a vote of 84 to 13.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who cosponsored the amendment, argued that requiring disclosure of a senator relying on the hold procedure would enable negotiations to occur on the dispute.

"If you walk the streets of this country and asked somebody what a 'hold' was in the United States Senate, I don't think you'd get one out of 100 people who would have any idea what you're talking about," Wyden said.

"It seems to me that a Senate that is serious about lobbying reform absolutely must stop doing so much of its important business in secret, behind closed doors," he said.

But Lawrence Evans, a political scientist at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who is an expert on Congress, said he expected that the practice would continue informally, even if it were formally banned.

Senators, Evans said, will either informally seek to thwart action on a piece of legislation or persuade a colleague to ask for a delay if he or she wishes to remain anonymous.

"The hold is part of the comity of the Senate," Evans said in an interview. "It's just a form of communication between the members and the leadership. It is a clear warning system for obstructionism on the floor."

-- KEN LAYNE

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