Journalism in the Public Interest

With Four Lawmakers Objecting, Senate Ends Practice of Secret Holds to Block Bills

The Senate voted last night to adopt a rule bringing more transparency to a practice long used to delay legislation. In a 92-4 vote, the Senate ended the “secret holds” that lawmakers used to anonymously hold up bills and nominees without having to explain their objections. The Senate’s new rule won’t prevent Senators from putting a hold on legislation—it’ll just make sure that senators who do so will have their name published in the Congressional Record.

As we noted a few weeks ago, secret holds allowed a single senator to sink the popular whistleblower protection bill at the end of the lame duck Congress. We still don’t know who that senator was, though the four senators who voted against ending secret holds yesterday could provide a clue.

Those four were South Carolina Republican Jim Demint, Utah Republican Mike Lee, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, and Nevada Republican John Ensign.

Sens. Lee and Paul are freshmen members, so that rules them out. Sen. Demint and Sen. Ensign did not respond to repeated inquiries about whether they killed the whistleblower bill last year, according to a joint crowdsourcing effort by WNYC’s On the Media and the Government Accountability Project.

As Slate blogger Dave Weigel notes, Jim Demint, Mike Lee and Rand Paul are the three founding members of the senate’s Tea Party Caucus. Sen. Lee told Weigel that he opposed ending secret holds because he didn’t want to change the Senate’s rules.

A spokeswoman for Ensign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the lawmaker voted to preserve secret holds because he was dissatisfied with another portion of the bill on how long senators are allowed to review bills before voting.

As for Demint, this is at least his sixth time trying to block efforts to end secret holds. He told The Hill last year that there are “a lot of pressing issues that we face as a country,” but secret holds are not one of them.

One of the most important whistleblower cases is that of Bradley Birkenfeld, who revealed his former employer, UBS, the Swiss banking behemoth (accounting for roughly 20 percent of Switzerland’s GDP), was running a massive tax evasion scheme.
That the government mishandled this case — primarily by prosecuting rather than rewarding him and thus scaring off future whistle-blowers — is the passionately held view of whistle-blower advocates.

“He is the most important whistle-blower in the last five years, maybe in our lifetime,” argues Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. “He is a national treasure, and he should be treated in such a way that people from the Lichtenstein banks and the other banks say: ‘I’ll do it also.’ But the way they are treating him now, they are going to shut [themselves] off [from] access to hundreds of billions in fraud, over time. This is an unmitigated disaster.”
  With a President who routinely golfs with UBS executives, we have to conclude that he is, in fact, an illegal working against the people who elected him.

I routinely shop with my aunt bessie who is a staunch republican racist, but i still hold my old ideals.  Your point?

I can understand why Ensign, an adulterous liar who somehow avoided expulsion from the senate for pressuring his political doners who to hire the husband of his paramour, would object to the removal of the secret hold provision.

Peter Buscemi

Jan. 28, 2011, 7:41 p.m.

Notice that all 4 that are against “secret” holds are Republicans. I wonder why all the other Republicans are for them? Maybe because they’re just ‘holds’ now. They don’t need filibuster power now with a Republican majority House of Reps. No need to sneak around with their agenda so clear.

The New York Times reported Friday, Jan. 28, that if a senator responsible for a hold does not acknowledge the hold in the Congressional Record, the hold will simply be attributed to the party leader or to another senator. So it’s quite possible very little will change.

korsika reisen

Feb. 17, 2011, 2:14 p.m.

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Why DeMint voted against this bill.

disinformation is impossible with an open internet.

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