GOP Uses SECRET HOLD To Obstruct Record Number of Nominees– Democrats Want To Unmask GOP Senators Using Secret Hold
A dark storm is brewing over the Senate as Republicans obstruct Presidential nominees in record numbers, abusing secret hold and laundering holds in an attempt to outrun Senate rules. The Republicans’ unprecedented use of secret holds has almost brought government to a standstill, and yet they’ve avoided all accountability for their actions by hiding under the cloak of anonymity. Senator Claire McCaskill tried to force them to own up to their holds this week.
GOP Uses SECRET HOLD To Obstruct Record Number of Nominees
There’s a disturbing trend in the Senate under President Obama, wherein Republicans are abusing secret holds in order to stall and block over 96 nominees of the President’s. These nominees range from federal court nominees to executive agencies, like the TSA –an agency whose current lack of leadership puts our lives at risk every day, as evidenced by the Christmas bomber and the no-fly list failure with the Times Square bomber.
Dozens of these nominees have sailed through committee hearings only to be brought to halt on the Senate floor through the use of what are called Secret Holds, which allow any senator to block any nominee at any time for any reason — anonymously. A new rule meant to lift the secrecy has had little effect.
A secret hold is a parliamentary procedure within the Standing Rules of the United States Senate that allows one or more Senators to prevent a motion from reaching a vote on the Senate floor. If the Senator provides notice privately to his or her party leadership of their intent (and the party leadership agrees) then the hold is known as a secret or anonymous hold. The practice of secret holds was briefly banished in 1977.
In response to the gathering storm of Republican obstructionism, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) attempted to unmask Senators with secret holds on President Obama’s stalled nominees by implementing a law that originated three years ago (Section 114 of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 ) intended to end secret holds. The law stipulates that names of senators objecting to any law, bill, or nomination must be published in the Congressional Record within six days.
When McClaskill first pushed the issue, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (the Senate’s No. 2 Republican) objected to every single nominee. (psstt….he’s one of 13 Republicans who voted against the measure requiring disclosure of secret holds). McClaskill continued forcing the issue on more nominees and Kyl continued to obstruct the process again last week.
NPR reported : Kyl said, “I have no objection to these two people, so I am not holding them. I am objecting on behalf of the Republican leadership in order to enable the two leaders to clear both of these nominees — that is to make sure there is no objection on either side, so that they can both go forward.”
McCaskill replied that the Republican and Democratic leaders had already conferred, and it was clear no Democrats objected to the nominations. She said Republicans were using a “stall and block” tactic, and challenged them to go public. “This is called stall and block, stall and block, stall and block, stall and block — and fine, but own it!” McCaskill said. “If you’re gonna stall and block, let’s see who you are.””
Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) explained, “One possibility is that they (Republicans) are just flat out directly violating the rule, just refusing to following the Senate rules. The second is that they are engaged in hold-laundering, that is that the people who originally had the hold have walked away from it after the six days have arranged for someone else to come in after the six-day period and have a new hold.”
Hold-laundering or flat out obstruction—neither says country first, governing first, or part of the solution. The Republicans underhanded tactics are bringing the government to a standstill at a time when we desperately need all hands on deck. After a year and a half of Republican obstructionism and misinformation,the modern day Republican party has doubled down on their plan to win back America by making it ungovernable under a Democratic president. “Stall and block” should be the Republican campaign motto for 2010.
Further distinguishing this as the juvenile act of pure bitterness over the democratic process of elections is the fact that many of the conservative activists providing cover for Republican stall and block tactics played the opposite role during the Bush administration. In an act of hypocritical hubris, Republican Mitch McConnell tried to downplay reality and spin his party’s epic obstructionism as business as usual:
“We’ve always had a challenging environment in the Senate with regard to the confirmation of executive branch appointments. This administration’s been treated about the same as the previous administrations in terms of the pace of confirmations.”
However, Congressional expert Ross Baker of Rutgers University disagrees. He says things are in fact far worse than they’ve ever been, “It’s difficult to police something when you really aren’t able to come up with any hard evidence to enforce it, and that’s what makes the secret hold so diabolically difficult to deal with.”
In seeming rebuttal to McConnell’s claim, even Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) has spoken out against secret holds and challenged all senators to have the courage to come out with their holds. Grassley is the one Republican to do so publicly.
At last Friday’s deadline, not one name had been published in the Congressional Record, because the Republicans who placed a secret hold on nominees were indeed “hold laundering” – a relay game of duck and dodge of the Senate Rules where they pass their secret hold onto the next Senator to avoid disclosure on the sixth day deadline. However, at the last hour, a single Republican manned up — kudos, Senator Tom Colburn (R-OK). The others are apparently still hiding whilst playing obstructionist games with our country.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) described the unprecedented secret holds as institutionalizing dysfunction and added, “This seems to be an attack on this administration to do its constitutional duty.”
Just because you can, boys, doesn’t mean you should. Your country needs you. Step up or get out.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.