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CREW asks Senators Reid, McConnell, and DeMint to for End to Secret Holds
As many as 80 executive branch nominees and a number of bills have been delayed or killed by secret holds this Congress.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stated, “The message of last week’s primaries was that people are sick of the ways of Washington and nothing says old-style politics like secret holds. Like martini lunches with lobbyists, it is long past time for this relic to be retired.”
CREW’s letter to Sens. Reid and McConnell asked the leaders to bring up the Wyden-Grassley provision, originally introduced as S. Res. 502 on April 27, 2010, as a stand-alone bill before the August recess. CREW also asked that the leaders consider strengthening the legislation by adding a provision that would give the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, commonly referred to as the Ethics Committee, jurisdiction to investigate and discipline members who persist in using secret holds despite a ban.
In April 2010, in response to CREW’s request that the Ethics Committee investigate senators’ improper use of secret holds, the Committee claimed it had no jurisdiction over senators’ violations of parliamentary procedure.
In addition to sending a letter to the party leaders in the Senate, CREW also sent a letter to Sen. DeMint because he has stopped the Senate from voting on the issue. On May 13th, the Wyden-Grassley provision was offered as an amendment to a bill on financial services reform, but Sen. DeMint offered a secondary amendment regarding the border fence, effectively killing the proposed ban on secret holds. Later, Sen. DeMint’s spokesperson indicated, alternatively, that the provision was not strong enough, and that it was not germane to the underlying legislation. Then, on two separate occasions last week when Sen. Wyden sought unanimous consent to bring the amendment up for a vote, two senators, Jim Risch (R-ID) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), objected on Sen. DeMint’s behalf, again preventing a vote. Given his spokesperson’s claim that he thought the initial provision was not strong enough, CREW asked Sen. DeMint to toughen the bill by working with Sens. Wyden and Grassley to strengthen the bill, again by giving the Ethics Committee jurisdiction over violations.
Sloan noted that before killing the secret holds legislation earlier this month, Sen. DeMint previously has argued against the Washington status quo and in favor of greater transparency and timely up-or-down votes for nominees. Sloan said, “Nothing says transparency like an end to secret holds. How about an up-or-down vote on that?”
Click here to read CREW’s letter to Sens. Reid and McConnell.
Click here to read CREW’s letter to Sen. DeMint.
Click here to read Sen. DeMint’s statements condemning “politics as usual.”