December 06, 2006

Wyden, Grassley, Senate Rules Committee Leaders Announce Offensive Against Secret Holds

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) today announced a new offensive against the Senate's practice of secret holds, under which a single Senator can block legislation or a nominee without revealing his or her identity.

Wyden has worked with Grassley for more than a decade to end the practice of secret holds. Their amendment requiring a Senator who places a hold to make it public within three days was included in the Senate version of lobbying reform legislation.

At a morning news conference, Wyden, Grassley, Senate Rules Chairman Lott and Ranking Rules Member Dodd outlined their plans for eliminating secret holds, which undermine the credibility of the Senate.

The Senators announced that they would all push to ban secret holds before the end of this session in the lobby reform bill or, failing that, in other appropriate legislation that comes before the Senate.

Most recently, in March, the Senate voted 84-13 on a Wyden-Grassley amendment requiring Senators to announce their opposition to legislation or a nominee in the Congressional Record within three days. The provision was included in the Senate version of the lobbying reform bill.

"Secret holds undermine the accountability and credibility of the U.S. Senate as an institution and do damage to individual Senators whose legislation can be held hostage by an unseen and unknown opponent," Wyden said. "Let me make an important distinction. We are not saying there should not be holds: we are saying that whoever puts a hold on legislation or a nominee ought to stand up and state their reasons for doing so. No Senator should ever expect to introduce legislation or support a nominee with the idea that there will always be a smooth path with no objections. Nor should they have to navigate a minefield of unknown opposition."

"Holds are the prerogative of every Senator. But, with this powerful tool must come public accountability. The Senate is the people's business and the people's business ought to be public. Our constituents have every right to know if any of us are stopping work from getting done," Grassley said. "I don't think any of us will hear complaints from constituents that we're being too transparent, and we can get problems and gripes out in the open where we can solve them. If there's a valid purpose to the hold, there's no reason to hide it from the American people."

"We must make the legislative process fairer and more transparent. That's why I believe we ought to have enacted months ago comprehensive lobbying reform legislation at least as strong at that passed by the Senate, which included this provision banning secret holds," Dodd said. "Secret holds undermine the confidence of Americans in the process and ultimately in the laws we write. Simply requiring senators to make public their concerns and objections to legislation or nominees would be a modest step toward greater accountability and transparency. Hopefully we can get this done yet this year as a part of comprehensive lobbying reform. But time's running out; Republican leaders must act now if we're to get comprehensive lobbying reform enacted this year."