The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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CREW asks Senators Reid, McConnell, and DeMint to for End to Secret Holds


Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as well as a separate letter to
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) asking that they take a step toward ending the
back room politics that paralyze Washington by supporting S. Res. 502,
a resolution introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Charles Grassley
(R-IA) to eliminate 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."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.