December 06, 2006

Wyden Amendment to End Secret Holds Approved by Senate

Previously, Senate rules allowed Senators to block legislation anonymously;Wyden's amendment changes rules to require that 'holds'on legislation, nominations be publicly announced

Washington, DC - After nearly a decade-long effort, the Senate today passed an amendment by a vote of 84-13 to end the process of secret holds championed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.). The Wyden-Grassley-Inhofe-Salazar amendment requires a Senator who intends to object to a unanimous consent request to publish in the Congressional Record within three days a notice of the objection. It does not limit any Senator from putting a hold a bill; it instead requires that the hold be made public. "What is unjust about the process of secret holds is that it prevents a Senator from being held accountable when it comes to conducting the people's business," said Wyden. "It's time to force these objections out of the shadows and into the sunshine." Today's approval of the amendment by the Senate is the latest step in a nearly 10 year effort by Wyden and Grassley to end the practice of secret holds. In 1997 and again in 1998 the United States Senate voted unanimously in favor of Grassley-Wyden amendments to require that a notice of intent to object be published in the Congressional Record within 48 hours, but the amendments failed to survive conference proceedings. In 1999, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) set forth a policy requiring all Senators wishing to place a hold on any legislation or executive calendar business to notify the sponsor of the legislation and the committee of jurisdiction of their concerns. The new policy also indicated that staff-initiated holds would not be honored without written notification from the Senator. However, the use of secret holds and staff-initiated holds eventually returned to common practice. As a matter of practice, Wyden publicly announces any "hold" he places on nominees or legislation; he does so by placing a formal statement in the Congressional Record.